CHILE: Merquén / Puré Picante

Merquén (also spelled Merken) is a condiment frequently used in Mapuche cuisine. It’s smoked cacho de cabra (goat’s horn) pepper mixed with salt and ground coriander. I was able to find some online from Montreal’s Épices de Cru / Spice Trekkers, they also sell the whole dried pepper. I’m going to first try the merquén out on something plain so I can get a sense of it alone, then I’m going to use it to make puré picante – Chilean spicy mashed potatoes.

I used the merquén as a dry rub on some chicken breast – it’s got moderate heat and a beautiful smokey aftertaste. It’s really nice and complex – I’m going to use this next time I make that Mozambican piri piri sauce again; it’ll be out of this world paired with all that lemon.

For the puré picante, I’m following the recipe on the Chilean cooking site Abre Tu Boca – I put it through a translator, but thankfully it’s pretty straightforward – basic mashed potatoes, plus a bit of nutmeg, merquén, and chili sauce. Like in the pebre recipe, I’ll follow the suggestion of Chilean ex-pats and use sriracha as a substitute for Chilean chili sauce.

I cut the recipe down in size and I’m leaving the peels on the potatoes – get that fibre! The recipe doesn’t give amounts for some of the spices, so I’ll follow my heart (my heart says more merquén). The amount given for the chili sauce charmingly translates to “this may vary depending on our courage”.

The nutmeg really pairs well with the two types of chili – it complements the smokiness of the merquén, and the sriracha follows up with some nice heat. This is really good – I’m totally sold on merquén – the jar of it is getting pride of place in my kitchen!

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