A fuji armadillo wha-wha-what?
Do not fret my friends, I shall explain.
Aji amarillo, or yellow pepper, is one of the most popular ingredients in traditional Peruvian cuisine. And for all intents and purposes, it will be more of an orange-lookin’ pepper by the time you actually cook with it. As the pepper matures, it deepens in color.
These pretty little things have a medium spice to them; I would say they’re spicier than a jalapeno but milder than a serrano. You can find aji amarillo in a variety of ways, such as, frozen, canned, or already mixed into a ready-to-use sauce. I usually prefer to seek out the frozen kind so I have more flexibility in terms of how I want to use them. If you’re lucky enough to have a latin american grocery store in your neck of the woods, you will most likely find aji amarillo there.
For this recipe in particular, I used frozen aji amarillo peppers which I thawed and then seeded and chopped. As with any hot pepper, have caution when handling these. So, try not to play around with your eyes, face, or any other sensitive areas on your body for that matter. Eww. Moving on.
You can definitely make this spicy aji amarillo sauce in advance. It should keep in your fridge for about a week. Here’s how I did it:
1 1/2 aji amarillo peppers; seeded and chopped roughly
1/2 C. mayonnaise, preferably homemade
1/2 lime; juiced
1 T. heavy whipping cream or half-and-half; to thin sauce
S & P
Place the aji amarillo, mayonnaise, lime juice, and salt and pepper into a blender. Mix. Once the aji amarillo is pretty well incorporated and the mixture has turned a slight orange, add the heavy cream/half-and-half. Mix again. Taste for seasonings. Store in refrigerator for later.
For the tacos, I really wanted to do more of a “carne asada” kind of approach to it. I found a nice looking flank steak at the market and knew that it would go great with the flavors I was planning to incorporate it with. This is how I made the tacos:
For the marinade –
1 – 1lb. flank steak
1/4 C. red wine vinegar
1 T. worcestershire sauce
1 garlic clove; minced
1/2 aji amarillo; seeded and chopped
3 T. cilantro leaves; washed. Roughly chop 1 T. of it for marinade, reserve the rest for garnish
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
For the tacos –
1/4 C. diced red onion
1 lime; cut into wedges
1/4 C. shredded cotija cheese
In a rectangular glass dish, combine the red wine vinegar, worcestershire sauce, garlic, aji amarillo, cilantro, salt, and pepper. Place the flank steak in the dish and spread the marinade all over it, making sure it’s well coated, flipping it around so it gets on both sides. Let the steak marinate for 2 hours in your refrigerator, turning it over once in between. In the meantime, you can start prepping your ingredients for your toppings and let them hang out in the fridge as well. That way, they’re ready when you are. Always a good thing.
Two hours have passed and it’s time to eat! Get your flank steak and cut it into bite-size pieces. On a large frying pan or griddle set over medium-high heat, cook the flank steak until just slightly pink in the middle. Flank steak can get real chewy real quick, so you definitely want to make sure and not over-cook this meat. Once everything is cooked, you can quickly warm your corn tortillas on the pan to “revive” them. They taste so much better when they’re warm.
Top your tacos with the spicy aji amarillo sauce, cotija cheese, red onions, and cilantro. Squeeze some lime juice for extra zing. Eat.
*I wrote an article for Living in Peru regarding this recipe. You can find it here.