Although you will find very few Chilean main dishes that are spicy, pebre is a ubiquitous spicy condiment that you will find on all tables in Chile.
What is the origin of the name of the country Chile?
Yes, it can be confusing, but the country of Chile does not share any history with chili pepper (or chile).
There are various theories about the origin of the name of the country. According to 17th-century Spanish chronicler Diego de Rosales, the Incas called the valley of the Aconcagua “Chili”, a deformation of the name of the Picunche tribal chief called Tili, who ruled the area at the time of the conquest by the Incas in the 15th century.
Another theory mentions the similarity of the valley of the Aconcagua with Casma Valley in Peru, where there was a town and valley named Chili.
Other sources think that the name of Chile may come from a Native American word meaning either “ends of the earth” or “sea gulls”.
The Spanish conquistadors heard about this name from the Incas. The few survivors of Diego de Almagro’s expedition in 1535–36 called themselves the “men of Chilli”. Almagro is actually credited with spreading the name Chile, after he named the Mapocho valley as such.
What is pebre?
Pebre is a Chilean condiment prepared with cilantro, chopped onion, olive oil, garlic and spicy aji pepper paste. It also often contains chopped tomatoes, as well as diced green chile peppers.
Pebre is often served with bread and butter at Chilean restaurants. It is also served with grilled meats, sausages or as a topping on boiled potatoes. It is served as condiment with empanadas, or choripán, this traditional Chilean sandwich.
Variants of pebre
Brazilians have a similar sauce called vinagrete, although mild as it doesn’t contain any peppers in it. This sauce is one of the most popular sauces served on grilled meat in Brazilian churrasqueadas.
Mexican pico de gallo (literally “cock’s beak”) is a similar condiment made with onion, cilantro and tomato, and that is served with tacos or other quesadillas.
The Dominican version called wasakaka usually includes lime or sour orange juice, and is often served with chicken. The Venezuelan version (guasacaca) adds avocado and is more of a smooth dip.
In Spain, pebre refers to a sauce prepared with vinegar, pepper, saffron, clove, and other spices.
There are many variants of pebre around Chile. Some of them use wine instead of vinegar.
The most common version of pebre is called chancho en piedra, which contains tomatoes. This version is traditionally prepared using a stone mortar and pestle, which explains the origin of its name as chancar means “to grind” and piedra means “stone”. Chancho en piedra is prepared by grinding crushed tomatoes, garlic, hot peppers, salt, and olive oil into a smooth paste, similar to Bolivian llajwa.
What is the origin of pebre?
In Catalan, the word pebre means pepper of any type. The origin of the pebre condiment in Chile dates to the arrival of Catalan engineers and highly skilled masons under the supervision of the Italian architect Joaquin Toesca. They came to Chile in the late eighteenth century to work on the construction of the tajamares de Santiago, the fluvial channels, river walls and bridges for Rio Mapocho (Mapocho River).
Catalan workers prepared a simple sauce (salsa) with cilantro, oil, vinegar and salt, that they called pebre as its main ingredient was ají.
Chiles in Chile
In Chile, the pepper (chili) is called ají (pronounced ah-hee). Ají comes from the language of the Taínos, the aboriginal people of the Greater Antilles where Columbus landed.
For pebre, aji verde (also known ají cristal, Capsicum baccatum), which is one of the most common hot pepper in Chile, is used. It is moderately hot, and is similar to a jalapeño.
You can also find other local chili peppers like ají cacho de cabra (goat’s horn chili). This pepper is used to make the Mapuche chili powder called merken. This spice blend with delightful smoky aromas is prepared with dried and smoked ají cacho de cabra, ground toasted coriander seeds and salt. It sometimes includes oregano or cumin.
Other peppers that you can find in Chile include other regional varieties, like ají amarillo, this Peruvian yellow chili that is also moderately hot and is used in dishes such as papa a la huancaina. Rocoto is also a Peruvian chili (Capsicum pubescens). This chile is very hot.
Other spicy condiments that you will find in Chile include:
– Ají de color, which is quite mild and is mostly used in Chilean Creole dishes.
– Ají Chilena, which is a Chilean hot sauce that has the consistency of a paste and is prepared with red chili pepper, vinegar and salt.
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 medium onion
- 4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 1 green chili , finely chopped
- ½ tablespoon salt
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon oil
Add the tomatoes to a pot of boiling water for 1 minute.
Remove them and then put them in cold water. Remove the skin.
Dice the onion. Place the onion in a medium size bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for a minute. Drain, and rinse well with cold water.
Mix the tomatoes, onion, cilantro, chili, salt, red wine vinegar, and oil.