Drake and Josh was a Nickelodeon television series which ran for 5 seasons. An episode that aired early in the third season titled ÃƒÂ¢Ã‚â‚¬Ã‚Å“ The Peruvian Puff PepperÃƒÂ¢Ã‚â‚¬Ã‚Â was very popular but contained a bit of misinformation…
There is a species of pepper, called the aji amarillo, which is native to Peru. It is widely used in Peruvian and Chilean cooking and is medium hot with a fruity flavor. Unlike the Peruvian Puff Pepper featured on the television show, the aji amarillo does not cause kidney damage nor is it illegal in the United States. Like all peppers, the aji amarillo contains capsaicin which is an anticoagulant and can be used as a local anesthetic on the skin. Peppers are known to be high in antioxidants and yellow peppers are an excellent source of vitamin A. Since the aji amarillo is actually nutritionally good for people, there would be no reason to ban it for importation. The aji amarillo is between 3 and 5 inches long and turns yellow to bright orange as it ripens.
Finding the Peruvian Puff Pepper
If the puff pepper referred to on the show is actually the aji amarillo, it is not easily found in its fresh form in the U.S. It is available dried, as a powder or as a paste. Some specialty shops may carry it frozen. It is used in many traditional Peruvian dishes and its use dates back to at least the Inca. Although there are other species of peppers or chilies native to Peru, this pepper is the most common and the most popular. Its flavor is both hot and sweet and it is great for flavoring meat, rice and bean dishes. Peruvian chef, Gaston Acurio, has named the Peruvian pepper the most important ingredient in Peruvian cooking. It is used in such traditional dishes as causa rellena and papa a la hunacaina.
The Peruvian Pepper is Delicious
In the Drake and Josh episode, the boys won a salsa contest with a delicious recipe containing the Peruvian puff pepper, but were later disqualified because the pepper was illegal in the U.S. and caused kidney damage. While the aji amarillo is perfectly legal in the U.S. and doesn’t cause any harmful effects, they had the delicious part right. A number of food companies sell ready made salsas containing this flavorful Peruvian native. It makes a great substitute for many other types of peppers in Latin American cooking.
There is no reason to avoid the wonderful aji amarillo since the TV show was apparently referring to a totally fictional Peruvian puff pepper. For those who love Latin American cooking and have not yet tried the aji amarillo, it is worth definitely worth a taste.