Food Vocabulary: Exotic Peppers

AROUND TOWN, far-flung chilies and peppery blends are giving an unexpected, spicy boost to shellfish dishes, pastries, and even cocktails. Ray Ford, owner of Christina’s Spice and Specialty Foods in Cambridge, schools us on the three must-try varieties.

Espelette
This pricey flaked pepper comes only from the northern Basque region of France, per persnickety French regulations. A flavor hybrid of paprika and cayenne, but with a bit less heat, it’s best atop seafood or in creamy dishes like egg custard. Find it at: Troquet  Braised Spanish octopus with chorizo, fork-crushed potatoes, and espelette pepper sauce, $19. Bistro du Midi  French fries with espelette and pimiento aioli, $7.

Aleppo
Though named for its origins in Aleppo, Syria, this mild, fruity, bright red pepper often comes from Turkey. Typically used in flake form, it works well as the finishing touch on Mediterranean mezze like hummus and baba ghanouj. Find it at: Sofra  Aleppo-spiced brioche, $6. Trade  Brussels sprouts with aleppo pepper and nuts, $7.

Togarashi
Ubiquitous in Japan, this seasoning comes in several varieties. The most common is shichimi, a versatile spice blend that usually contains chili flakes, sesame seeds, orange peel, ginger, seaweed, and Szechwan peppercorns. Try it on everything from noodles to popcorn. Find it at: Red Lantern  Mongolian steak with togarashi-spiced mush-rooms and sweet potatoes, $32. Oishii  Spiced tangerine cocktail with aperol, orange vodka, tan-gerine juice, and togarashi, $12.

Photo by Kang Kim

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