ECUADOR: Aji de tomate de arbol

Freshly made aji is a staple on Ecuadorian tables – it’s fresh hot sauce, often made with tart fruit. There’s a lot of variations, like a straighforward aji criollo with green hot peppers and garlic, aji de maracuya with passion fruit, and aji de tomate de arbol – made with tamarillos.

Tamarillos are a South American fruit sometimes called a tree tomato, though they don’t really taste like one – they have a fresh tartness that’s more like passionfruit or citrus. They’re sweet enough to eat straight, but also refreshingly sour. There are two varieties, yellow and red – mainly from the colour of the inside pulp, though I’m not sure if they have different flavours.

The recipe is from Laylita’s Recipes – a great Ecuadorian food site. She uses yellow tamarillos, I could only find red ones. While the recipe suggests less-spicy peppers, why make a hot sauce without any heat? I blended in an un-seeded yellow habanero. I did also find chochos (lupini beans) to add to this sauce – the recipe site suggests adding them is a regional favourite in Quito.

The red tamarillos pulped up to a beautiful burgundy – my phone captures it a bit more red. It’s wonderfully tart and fresh, sweet and acidic and punchy, with a nice background noise of heat. This could really go with all kinds of dishes, basically anything that would go with citrus. I’m going to serve this alongside a few other Ecuadorian dishes I’m planning to make, but I had a bit over the remaining beans and it was fantastic.

I did have to go back and correct “tomatillos” to “tamarillos” about three times while writing this, however.

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