The second five-day festival of Chilies took place in Mexico City, to showcase the many varieties of chillies that grow in the country.
Chilies have become a key ingredient in Mexican cooking and are used to make different sauces that accompany and spice up nearly every Mexican dish.
Dozens of exhibitors took part in the festival that was held until June 1.
The festival also featured molcajetes, a stone tool, the traditional Mexican version of mortar and pestle, used for grinding chilies and different types of “salsas” (sauces).
The festival is held to disseminate the different varieties of chili in the country and teach visitors how they can put them into use in many different recipes.
The organizers created a new culture of chili, in which the public recognized its nutritional properties and realize its consumption is healthy even though many avoid eating chilies because they associate them with indigestion.
Stands selling chili plants, different varieties of chili, organic bottled sauces, and molcajetes lined the exhibition.
Visitors touring the exhibition learned how to make sauces, pick up recipes, and try them at restaurants where sauces and used in various traditional dishes and snacks.
Gustavo Alvarez, is and expositor and owns a restaurant on the outskirts of Mexico City, which specializes in mole, a sauce used in Mexican cuisine. The sauce is most popular in the central and southern regions of the country with those from Puebla and Oaxaca the best known.
“That is what this forum is about. To see that sauce made in a molcajete tastes different and has other properties and of course is natural and that is what really enriches our culture, our gastronomy and of course our health. A sauce made in a molcajete is different to one made days before,” Alvarez said.
Visitors were also able to buy quesadillas, a flour or corn tortilla filled with mixture containing cheese or other ingredients and folded in half. They are made on a comal – a smooth flat griddle typically used in mexico to cook tortillas, toast spices and generally prepare food. These ones are being made with “flor de calabaza” (squash – blossoms), cheese, tortillas, and mushrooms.
“We have all kinds of weather (in Mexico). That is why we have different chilies and different dishes. The chili is fundamental and it’s also part of our identity. They say that if you don’t eat chilies, then you’re not Mexican and it’s part of our pride,” said festival organizer, Jaime Ortega.
The festival was held in the community center at the former convent of Culhuacan, an old monastery built between the XVI and XVII century by Franciscan missionaries and Augustinians.
They were assigned to the area to evangelize the indigenous people who lived there and had inhabited the area since the seventh century, which makes it one of the oldest settlements in the valley of Mexico.