Buying and Handling Chiles & Aguachile​: Ceviche with a Kick

Photos by Tj Turner

If you’re in the Minneapolis–St. Paul metro area, there are a number of great Asian, Indian, and Latin markets that carry wide varieties of chiles at affordable prices. Products stocked vary week to week, but the best shops have wide selections that satisfy most if not all culinary needs. A few of our favorites include:

  • Dragon Star Oriental Foods • 633 W. Minnehaha Ave., St. Paul (second location in Brooklyn Park)
  • Marissa’s Supermarket • 2750 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis
  • India Bazaar • 4130 Blackhawk Rd., Eagan

Handling Tips

  • When handling chiles as spicy or spicier than jalapeños, wear gloves and wash your hands and all prep objects (knives, cutting boards) with soap and warm water after prep. A chance hand-to-eye contact without those precautions can be memorably unpleasant.
  • If you OD on spicy heat, you can most effectively cool your mouth with milk or another dairy product; their casein protein helps dissolve capsaicin and save your palate. Hard liquor is another good choice—it’ll also dissolve the capsaicin. Failing those methods, you can use bread as a sponge to take some of the oil and heat out of your mouth.
  • Asian and Latin markets often sell large bags of fresh habaneros or jalapeños. If you’re not going to make hot sauce out of the extras, just freeze them in freezer bags—they will retain their heat and flavor and thaw quickly. They will tend to lose their crispness, however.
  • To reconstitute dried chiles, wipe off any dust with a damp towel, cut off the stems with a knife or shears, slice open the chile, and remove the seeds and veins. Drop the cleaned chile peppers into a mixing bowl with hot tap water, and let them re-hydrate for 15–30 minutes. Drain the peppers and chop, blend, or otherwise add them to your recipe at hand.
  • As with most produce, the enemies of chiles are light, heat, and moisture. Keep them sealed, cool, and in dark places. Dried chiles are far more resilient than fresh ones, but they still profit from being kept out of direct sunlight and in cool, dry places.

Aguachile: Ceviche With a Kick

Aguachile (literally: chile water) is a Mexican dish that brings together raw seafood (typically sashimi-grade shrimp or fish) submerged in a dressing made from juiced chiles (usually jalapeños), lime juice, salt, cilantro, onions, and cucumbers.

Unlike ceviche, aguachile is tossed with its dressing and served right away, which means there isn’t much of a cure on the ingredients; it’s important, therefore, that you talk to a fishmonger about getting sashimi-grade seafood for this dish, as it will be consumed essentially raw.

There are plenty of guides to aguachile online, but Serious Eats has a recipe with a substantial background section on history and method called “How to Make Aguachile, The Chile-Spiked Mexican Ceviche.”

Around the Twin Cities, you can sometimes order aguachile at spots such as Jefe, Colita, and Tinto Kitchen—call ahead or check the menu online, as aguachile tends to pop up as a special and then fade away.