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Chiles (Capsicum spp.) come in many shapes and sizes, sweet, mild, smoked, hot, hotter, hottest. For the most part, they add heat and flavor to a dish but are not its poster ingredient. This is not to downgrade the importance of chiles in cuisines of the Americas or in the myriad countries and cultures from Thailand to Hungary, where they went native after 1492, transforming and invigorating traditional dishes. People around the world learned quickly to love the heat and the varied tastes of chiles. Anyone who has tasted the Martinican fish stew called blaff will have carried away an indelible memory of the flavor of the Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, as well as a respect for its unchallenged status as the hottest chile of them all. Then there is Hungarian paprika in its many grades of heat and special dark flavor. But Mexico is Capsicum heartland.

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