One of the twenty-four varieties of dried chiles more or less exclusive to Oaxaca (though found in parts of Puebla), the chile pasilla de Oaxaca grows in small pockets high in the forbidding Sierra Mixe. Also known as the chile mije, the pasilla de Oaxaca is ripened on the vine and then smoked in small batches. This chile is not produced or exported on any kind of large scale.
Although pasilla de Oaxaca is often described as “fruity,” the batch I bought this winter in Oaxaca’s Mercado Juarez is dominated by deep, smoky notes. Chewing on the tip of one is kind of like chewing on the tip of a smoldering mesquite log. But in a good way. These chiles turned out to be one of my best purchases of the trip. I keep a mason jar of the chiles mijes above my stove and I find myself reaching for it often, particularly when I’m having that, “Oh crap, I don’t have any salsa ingredients…or do I?” moment.
photo by Felisa Rogers