There's Goat Horn Chile on Everything at LA's Mapuche Native Argentinian Food Truck

This new spice can work on nearly any cut of meat
The Mapuche Native Argentinian Food truck will soon have a new home in front of a Mapuche coffee shop in Culver City later this summer
Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

The Mapuche Native Argentinian Food truck will soon have a new home in front of a Mapuche coffee shop in Culver City later this summer.

Have you tried merkén? Imagine the taco/fish/chicken/pork/stew seasoning of your dreams, a wonder spice that has a distinct earthiness and tastes of chiles, paprika and smoke.

The rust-colored spice is made from Goat Horn chile (aji cacho de cabra), cumin and coriander. It’s featured predominantly in the cooking of the Mapuche people in Chile and Patagonia, and it can take several months to smoke — with three to four different kinds of wood —before it’s ready, depending on the tribe making it. Yes, it’s pretty special stuff. And that’s why chef Carlos Leiva, who is part of the Mapuche in Patagonia, gets his merkén from three different tribes near the Andes and uses it as the flavor base for every single dish he serves on his Mapuche Native Argentinian food truck.

Quinoa empanadas from the Mapuche Native food truck.
Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

Quinoa empanadas from the Mapuche Native food truck. 

That includes Leiva’s chimichurri, the Argentinian herb-based condiment that’s as ubiquitous to the cuisine as ketchup is to us. Leiva is proud of his version of chimichurri, which he makes using a mixture of parsley, garlic, olive and grapeseed oils, paprika, cumin, oregano, Champagne and red wine vinegars — and, of course, merkén.

Here what went into launching the truck almost two years ago in Los Angeles.

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