Reprinted with permission from Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand by Andy Ricker with JJ Goode. Copyright 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- Yield:Makes about 1/2 cup
- Active time: 40 minutes
- Total time:40 minutes
- 1 ounce stemmed dried Mexican puya chiles (about 15)
The goal here is to cook the chiles slowly so they get nice and dark but don't burn. Consider opening a window and turning on your stove's exhaust fan.
Put the chiles in a wok or pan, turn the heat to high to get the pan hot, then turn the heat down to medium low to low.
Stir the chiles around almost constantly, moving them around the wok and flipping them occasionally to make sure both sides of the chiles make contact with the hot pan. Keep at it until the chiles are very brittle and very dark brown (nearly black) all over, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the chiles from the pan as they've finished. Discard any seeds that escape the chiles, because they'll be burnt and bitter.
Let the chiles cool. Pound them in a granite mortar to a coarse powder that's only slightly finer than store-bough red pepper flakes, or grind them in a spice grinder (or better yet, pass them twice through a meat grinder, first through a 1/4-inch die and then through an 1/8-inch die). Either way, take care to keep the powder coarse. Immediately put the chile powder in an airtight container or plastic bag.
The chile powder will keep for a few months in a sealed container kept in a cool, dry place (not in the fridge), though the flavor will begin to deteriorate after several weeks.