What Is Ají Picante?
A lot of people may be surprised that Colombian food is actually not spicy. At all. For some reason, I expected Colombian food to be spicy probably because of the misguided association I had made with Mexican food and was really disappointed at the beginning that I couldn’t find any. You won’t find any spicy dishes in Colombia but they do have a version of hot sauce which can be found on virtually any Colombian dining table in a bowl right with the salt and pepper shaker. They call it ‘Ají’ and while every place has their own different version of it, the bases are cilantro, scallion, hot chilli pepper, water and vinegar. As Colombian food doesn’t incorporate a lot of herbs and spices, their food may appear to be quite bland and so they colour it out with Ají. It’s a simple and effective condiment that goes well with any savoury meal, especially Empanadas. I use Ají on everything. It’s come to replace my love for tomato sauce and as a plus it’s much healthier than any sauce you buy in a bottle.
Here, I’m going to show my personal recipe for Ají. Everyone has a different preference when it comes to how they like their Ají. Some like it watery, some places only put in cilantro, a bit of scallion and water, while others make it really spicy etc. I personally like my Ají on the spicier and thicker end. Keeping that in mind, I’ve included measurements here as a guide. Taste as you go along and play around with the ingredients until you get it right for you.
What you need:
½ cup Cilantro
2 Small chilli peppers
Juice of one big lime
¼ cup Vinegar
½ cup of water
1 clove of garlic
½ teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Sugar
- Boil the tomato and pepper in water for about 7 minutes. This will give the aji a nicer texture when you put it all together.
- While the tomato and peppers are boiling, chop up the cilantro, scallion and garlic.
- Once the tomato and peppers are cooked, take it out of the pan and let it cool then chop them up finely.
- Add water, vinegar, tomato, chilli, garlic, lime, salt and sugar in blender and blend it slowly for a few minutes.
- Add cilantro and scallion to the blender and pulse a few times. We don’t want to blend them too finely.