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Choose Your Fire: A Selective Guide to Chile Peppers

May 09, 1991

* 1. Dried chiles habaneros , currently the hottest chiles available in this country.

* 2. Chile de arbol , a hot, toasty-flavored dried pepper about three inches long.

* 3. Thai chiles, very hot and suitable for salads and Thai sauces, with very large seeds that give them a knobby appearance when dried (hence the unappetizing but very descriptive Thai name khi nu , "rat droppings").

* 4. Red-ripe version of the jalapeno , the most popular hot pepper in this country, used fresh in salsas, stews and salads and eaten by itself in pickled form.

* 5. Serranos , two-inch-long very hot peppers, used mostly in salsas.

* 6. Chile guero , generic term for medium-hot yellow Mexican peppers.

* 7. Poblano , the very wide (three inches) and tapering fresh pepper preferred for chiles rellenos .

* 8. Anaheim, mild and very long, used for stuffing, stews and rajas (toasted pepper strips).

* 9. Ancho , the mild, prune-flavored, dried form of poblano . It's the most common ground pepper in Mexican cooking.

Not pictured:

* The fat, greenish, two-inch-long peperoncini , nearly always pickled.

* The mild red pimiento, available pickled and (as paprika) dried and ground.

* Tiny peppers, either pea-shaped or tapering and up to half-inch long, extremely hot, known as chile tepin or chile pequin (both names are from the Aztec word tecpin , "flea"--both for the pepper's size and its bite).

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