Did Aji Cacho De Cabra Name Chile, The South American Country?
Image Credit: A spiraled cacho de cabra, Flickr

For food enthusiasts like me, who often scan almost anything and everything through the gastronomy lens, the name of a place sharing commonalities with anything edible or potable leaves us curious. And thus, several questions pop up in our heads. One such place is Chile, a country in South America. A few most pondered questions are: Why do they call Chile Chile? Is Chile pepper named after Chile? Who gave Chile its name? Does Chile get its name from a chilli? Well, the answers to these questions lead in various directions. What appears most convincing among them is Cacho de Cabra. This chilli is a notable produce of this country and has several unique features. Let's decode Chile and Aji Cacho de Cabra.

What is Aji Cacho de Cabra?

Cacho de Cabra also goes by the name Goat's Horn Chile. It is a native Chilean pepper that has a moderate heat level. Concerning the shape of the pepper, "Cacho de Cabra" in Spanish means "goat horn." The Mapuche, Chile's indigenous people, have been harvesting peppers in Santiago for millennia. 

A bunch of red Cacho de Cabra pepper, Image Source: Grafitel TV@Youtube

The elongated, pointy Cacho de Cabra pepper has a crimson colour. Its name comes from the shape's resemblance to goat horns. Cacho de Cabra is aromatic and has medium heat when consumed fresh and raw. Despite not being the spiciest of all hot peppers, its use in most-in-demand, merkén, unquestionably draws global attention to it, and of course to Chile, the country. 

Chile's chilli connection and moniker

Many assume that Chile must be related to Chile peppers. Because the word "chile" is spelt this way in Spanish, and people call peppers by that name across the world. But if you dig a bit deeper, you'll discover that the Spanish borrowed it from the Nahuatl or Aztec language, which they used to refer to a native plant that produced hot peppers. A Nahuatl dictionary, however, interpreted the word as "chilli" (in French). Nonetheless, there is no connection between the peppers and Chile, the South American country. The word "chilli" in Mapuche, which means "the end of the land," is the source of the nation's name. It makes reference to Chile's extensive coastline. But something still doesn't feel too convincing. It must be mentioned here that even the nation was referred to as "Chili" until the early 20th century. Isn't it reminding you of the 'chicken and egg story'? 

Chile's Merkén and Cacho de Cabra

In Chile's Mapuche cuisine, Merkén or merquén is a traditional culinary ingredient. Cacho de Cabra are used to make merkén. These chile peppers are naturally dried in the sun before being smoked over a fire. They then undergo a long-established method of grounding devised by the Mapuche folks. Such exquisite processing methods, lend the pepper a rich and distinct smokey flavour. Due to the Cacho de Cabra pepper's moderate heat, the merquen spice also has a mild bite. Then, it's occasionally blended with salt and roasted coriander. 

The famous Merkén, Image Source: BigStock

In recent years, merkén from Chile has become quite well-liked spices in the world. The spice is typically added to a dish according to the user's preferences to develop a distinguished character from its distinctively fiery and smoky flavour.

Whether you want to stick to your logic that Chile got its name due to chilli or go by the suggestion of Mapuche reference or give credit to Cacho de Cabra pepper which makes the famous Merkén, we leave that to you. Nevertheless, take a close look at those chillies, chile or pepper and let us know- Why Chile, the country called Chile?