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The Long Journey of the Aleppo Pepper

The Long Journey of the Aleppo Pepper


In 2013, Mr. Lowcock introduced a chutneylike sauce called Roasted Aleppo and Cayenne Shatta, a medium-heat combination of cayenne, fresh garlic, dried Aleppo pepper flakes from Turkey and Greece rehydrated in red wine, and roasted fresh Aleppos he buys locally.

Such uses veer from the spice’s traditional role in Levantine cuisine, often as a finishing touch on plates of hummus, sizzling spears of kebabs or blended with red bell peppers in muhammara.

In recent years, the Aleppo pepper’s innate versatility has broadened its appeal among chefs.

“It is, of course, spicy, but it’s also a little citrusy and fruity, with a bit of sweetness, so it’s interesting for sauces and very good for marinated fish and raw fish preparations,” said Eric Ripert, the chef and an owner of Le Bernardin in Manhattan. He relies on La Boîte for his supply of Aleppo pepper, selectively chosen by Mr. Sercarz from plants grown in Turkey from Syrian seeds.

Aleppo pepper’s unusual flavor profile distinguishes it from its close cousins in the chile family: Urfa, Marash and Antep, named for the pepper-producing towns of Sanliurfa, Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep, just across the Syrian border in southern Turkey, where many Syrian refugees are living.

The Antep comes closest in flavor, but lacks the Aleppo’s subtle heat. The Marash’s smoky intensity and the dark purple Urfa’s raisiny (some say tobaccolike) aroma and sharper bite make them interesting alternatives, but not substitutes.

It took Peter Bahlawanian, the owner of Spice Station in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles, several years to track down a reliable importer after the start of the Syrian conflict. He said vendors came into his shop trying to pass off other ground chiles as true Aleppos.



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