At almost every restaurant in the Sierra, we have found a condiment on every table, aji. The literal translation is simply, hot pepper, but aji is so much more. Every aji I’ve tasted has some ingredients in common: the tree tomato or tomate de arbol, red onion, hot peppers, a little salt, and a little oil. But every chef seems to offer their own twist.
I’ve already shared one recipe that was inspired by a chef at the Swiss Hotel, where we spent our first few weeks in country. This time, I’m going to share a recipe from the Chef at a small lodge tucked away behind Cotopaxi National Park, Los Mortiños. He has a secret ingredient that made his aji the best I have yet tasted in Ecuador.
Aji de Los Mortiños
2 tree tomatoes
2-3 hot peppers
1 red onion
1 tsp of natural peanut butter (or more to taste)
Place the tree tomatoes in a pot of boiling water and cook until the skin splits. Remove from water and let cool. In the meantime, dice your red onion, place it in a sieve over a bowl. Pour boiling water over the top to soften the onion. Seed the hot peppers. Use some of the seeds for a hot aji and all of the seeds for a super spicy aji.
Place the pulp of the tree tomatoes, the hot peppers, the onion, the peanut butter, salt, vegetable oil, and 1\2 liter of water to a blender. If the sauce seems too thick, add a little water. It will thicken a little over time. Tree tomatoes seem to be high in pectin.
Mince parsley and then stir into the finished sauce.