Special Ingredients: Middle Eastern Delights – Marash + Aleppo Peppers

I found some at a spice market and was so intrigued I could not wait to give the bag a try.  What made me curious was the relatively copious amount of moisture that was evident on the bag.  I’d never seen “dried” peppers with this amount.  Boy am I glad that I let my curiosity get the best of me and lead me to check out these peppers.

view from above

Marash peppers, grown in Turkey, are sun-dried, stemmed, seeded, and ground. This chili is naturally moist with essential oils, a sure sign its not past its prime.  They also have the aroma of dried fruits with musty and earthy flavors tacked on. This chili commonly finds a place in meat preparations such as chicken, lamb, or goat, and is commonly found in Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean cuisine.  This post from Culinary Anthropologist offers some great details.  She first discovered the pepper while working at Chez Panisse in nearby Berkeley, California, where they wanted the taste the pepper offered, minus the heat so as not to overwhelm their customers.

ideas for ingredients

They are very similar to Aleppo pepers, but lack the the slightly acidic after taste that accompanies Aleppos.  Curious?  Neil Sapper offers a great opinion read on holding back on pepper as a seasoning, but he made the exception when it came to Marash.  Note, it also goes by the name of Maraş, so if you find a pepper with that name instead – Eureka!

The Aleppo peppers (aka Halaby pepper) favored in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking.  The pepper is named after Aleppo, a city along the Silk Road in northern Syria, with Syria and Turkey as home to this flavor enhancer.

nothing but possibilities

For the longest time, Syrian and Turkish cooks kept this pepper as their secret ingredient.  Indeed, it was not until well near the end of the 20th century, with one source (Los Angeles magazine) attributed its rise in use by the broader U.S. populace to the 1994 publication of The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean by Paula Wolfert (source: wikipedia, aleppo pepper).  That’s less than 20 years, people.  That is too long to keep a secret about this lovely ingredient.  I want to know what else they’ve been holding back on.

time to get inspired

Because I am not too adept at describing flavors, I again defer to wikipedia for the following description:

The Aleppo pepper has a moderate heat, with some fruitiness and mild, cumin-like undertones. Its flavor is similar to the ancho chile, but oilier and slightly salty, as salt is often used in the drying process.  It is fairly mild, with its heat building slowly, with a fruity raisin-like flavor. It has also been described as having the flavor of “sweetness, roundness and perfume of the best kind of sundried tomatoes, but with a substantial kick behind it.”

If that is not enough to have you thinking of the possibilities, I don’t know what is.  The description is reinforced by Poopa Dweck, author of the wonderful Aromas of Aleppo, The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews. She adds that this pepper is prized by cooks in this region as it adds a heat that does not overpower the other flavors in the food which tend to be soft and sour.  She offers the following substitutes if you are in a pinch:  3 parts paprika to one part cayenne, or using ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper for every teaspoon of aleppo peppers.

If you are still struggling, the most common use is in the form of crushed flakes, which are typically slightly milder and more oily than conventional crushed red pepper. Unlike crushed red pepper, the flakes contain no seeds, contributing to the mildness. Crushed Aleppo pepper can be used as a substitute for crushed red pepper or paprika.

Life has been crazy lately, I’ve not had the time to cook as I would like, but I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel.  My goal is to try out new ingredients and explore new cuisines, and I’ve definitely been inspired by my travels.  So with the possibilities opened with marash and Aleppo peppers, I see some serious Middle Eastern cooking in my future.  For anyone that has cooked with these peppers, what are some tried and true recipes?

 

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13 comments for “Special Ingredients: Middle Eastern Delights – Marash + Aleppo Peppers

  1. April 1, 2012 at 10:59 PM

    I’d love to try that speciality! Lovely description. Surely delicious.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. April 3, 2012 at 1:51 PM

    I have not tried either of these peppers as of yet, but you know me, I will now be on the hunt :)
    Great article, and will check out some of these links.
    Magic of Spice recently posted..What’s for lunch? Pear, Plum, Citrus and Red Onion Salad

  3. April 3, 2012 at 2:01 PM

    We have a large container of Aleppo pepper at home and it tastes just as you describe it. I do not know the marash pepper but shall keep my eyes peeled. What do you want to make with your peppers?
    Stevie recently posted..artichoke leek lasagna

  4. April 4, 2012 at 5:51 AM

    You make me wish I had access to larger markets to try the peppers. This is a new one. The variety of peppers throughout the world has always intrigued and delighted me.
    Claudia recently posted..Warm Mushroom Salad

  5. April 7, 2012 at 4:09 AM

    This is really interesting. I’d never heard of them Will have to look online so I can try some
    ruth recently posted..Italian Foodie Experience#5 King Prawn/Shrimp Ravioli with a Portuguese Twist

  6. April 7, 2012 at 7:35 PM

    interesting always learn new things from you
    rebecca recently posted..Sole in a Chinese Style Black Bean Sauce

  7. OysterCulture
    April 7, 2012 at 8:00 PM

    Rosa – I am guessing with your relative proximity to Turkey you might have an easier time.

    MoS – When you do, watch out world, I can not wait to see what you do with them. Aleppo I know you can get from Penzeys. I’ve not seen marash as frequently.

    Stevie, ah good question, I am inspired to make Turkish and Lebanese food to see why these first cooks to use them selected them, and then from the recipes I’ve seen on the web, the sky’s the limit.

    Claudia – try Pensey’s at least for the Aleppo, I got some there when I was back in the Twin Cities.

    Ruth – I bet you’ll find some, given you are in Europe I am not the most helpful on sources. Although I bet if you had a good Middle Eastern grocer, they could help.

    Rebecca – ah thanks.

  8. April 8, 2012 at 8:32 AM

    I can’t believe that I haven’t heard of these peppers and will also be on the lookout. I love the trail that weave for us through your food writing – very informative.
    tammy recently posted..Bugged about the Bug

  9. April 8, 2012 at 4:01 PM

    I so enjoyed this post LouAnn. I had Turkish friends who were in the states for a while and they swore by these ingredients. When I lived in New York, I had easy access, but now in PA, I probably should check out Penzy’s. I had almost forgot about the peppers until you “lit up” my memory.

    Thanks for that and thanks for sharing…Hope things calm down for you soon:)
    Louise recently posted..Eggs, Artichokes or Both?

  10. April 10, 2012 at 6:43 PM

    I love that you find these unexpected surprises at your market. I will admit ours have surprised me before, but it isn’t nearly as exciting. Best wishes with getting back to cooking again. Travel is such great inspiration. I’ve been in a rut myself, but it always seems to come with the change of the seasons for me. I, too, can see the light. :)
    Lori recently posted..Lemon Sugar Cookies

  11. April 14, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    I posted recently on red peppers as folks in the mountain villages still roast them in the sun and grind them; it is wonderful to me because it is only vaguely hot; the flavor is complex, could not describe it as well or precisely as these authors. Love them best when fresh. I add the pepper in a multitude of dishes, such as flatbreads, stuffed veggies, kibbeh (espe with the lentil one or the tomato one), pilafs, etc….anything that needs a little extra flavor
    tasteofbeirut recently posted..Fresh pineapple crumble

  12. October 8, 2012 at 3:50 AM

    I can’t believe I’ve never heard of these chillies before! They sound super and I WILL get my hands on some and try them out. Thanks!

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