My name is Stephanie Dean and I work at Sunset Magazine with Margo True, our new Food Editor. We have run into a little chile mystery lately. She directed me to you. Basically, we have an enchilada recipe that calls for dried Pasilla chiles and one batch came out fine, but another batch using chiles titled Pasilla negra, were way too spicy. What could be the reason for this? Here are Margo’s questions: Is there a difference between pasilla, chile negro, and pasilla negra-or whether these are three terms for the same chile? What might be the reason for the difference in color and taste between our initial testing of the enchilada sauce, with "pasilla" chiles, when the sauce turned out dark red and aromatic and tasty, and our subsequent testing with "pasilla negra" chiles, when the resulting sauce was dark brown and bitter. Thanks!!
Stephanie Dean, Sunset Magazine
Pass on Congrats to Margo on her great new position! To answer your question, as with most chile nomenclature, there is enormous confusion about pasilla varieties. Part of this is due to the stupidity of the California produce industry, which calls the poblano the "pasilla," which it isn’t. Basically, there are these varieties:
–ordinary pasilla, which is long and thin, dark red, and smells raisiny.
–pasilla de Oaxaca, a smoked variety from Oaxaca unrelated to ordinary pasilla.
–"pasilla negra," which may actually be ’mulato,’ a dark ancho chile (dried poblano)
The bottom line is to use ordinary pasilla in the recipe. Hope this helps.