Rajas poblanas (RRAa-has poblanas) are strips of roasted chile poblano (photo below), which range from mild to spicy. I love having the smoky flavour of the roasted chile and the surprise spice in a random bite of a taco! They're a classic in tacos but equally fantastic mixed in with beans, added to soups, as a filling for enchiladas/enfrijoladas/enguacatadas, on salads, nachos, on the side with eggs, in an omelette, or in sandwiches.
Fresh unripe poblanos are a deep gorgeous green, and turn into a fiery red when they ripen. Dried poblanos are called chile ancho, and are ubiquitous in most Mexican moles. Rajas poblanas is also a Mexican dish made with chile poblano rajas mixed with crema (Mexican sour cream), onions, and sometimes chicken. It's slightly rich, but one of my favourite Mexican dishes. In addition to tinga, posole, chile colorado, alambres, and all my other Mexican favourites!
Nopales, or cactus, is a very common ingredient in Mexican cuisine. In any good Mexican market you'll find either whole cactus paddles with thorns that you take home and clean and trim yourself, or bags of cleaned, trimmed, and diced cactus ready to cook. I usually get the cleaned and diced cactus because it's a time saver. Cactus can be cooked diced or the whole cleaned and trimmed paddle can be roasted/grilled. And along with whole roasted jalapeños and spring onions, it's an excellent accompaniment to steak!
Tacos: Cactus and Roasted Poblano Chiles (Nopales y Rajas Poblanas)
makes: 6 tacos
- 1/2 cup chipotle cashew cream sauce
- 2 cups cleaned and diced cactus
- 1 chile poblano, washed
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tsp. salt
- 12 small corn tortillas (ask the store for tortillas for tacos, which are smaller)
- 8-10 sprigs cilantro (1/4 cup coarsely chopped)
- 1/4 cup finely shredded purple cabbage (or red or green cabbage)
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
Optional garnishes: finely shredded carrots, sliced avocado, onions, jalapeno, pickled vegetables "en escabeche"
- Cook the cactus: Bring water to a rolling boil in a large pan. Add the cactus and boil for about 15 minutes, or till the cactus is soft. Don't overcook the cactus till its mushy or you'll have a panful of slimy green pieces! Drain the cooked cactus and set aside.
- While the cactus is boiling, roast the chile poblano over an open flame or in a cast-iron pan until its charred on all sides. Remove from the heat and put it in a covered bowl for 15 minutes. Remove the charred and softened skin, rinsing off any residue. Cut the chile into half and discard the seeds. Cut the roasted chile into strips - "rajas" in Spanish.
- In a pan, heat the olive oil and add the onion and garlic. Sauté until translucent then add the cooked cactus and salt. Sauté for a few minutes till heated through.
- Transfer the chile poblano strips (rajas) and cactus into serving bowls. Arrange the cabbage, cilantro, and any optional garnishes in a platter. Warm the tortillas.
- Assemble the tacos: divide the tortillas among plates, stacking 2 per taco. Top with the rajas and cactus, cilantro, and cabbage. Drizzle 1 tbsp. each of the chipotle cashew cream sauce and salsa on each taco.
- Serve immediately with a wedge of lime, additional salsa, cashew cream sauce, and optional garnishes.