Yes! Merquén

Rachel Tepper Paley

YES. It’s what we say to things that are awesome. Yes.

Photo credit: StockFood

A search for something to zing up a velvety soup of puréed carrots, cauliflower, and Greek yogurt recently sent me to the dark depths of my spice cabinet. I didn’t know quite what I was seeking.

"Paprika?" Too mild. "Red chile powder?" Close, but its heat can be one-dimensional. And then there it was, way in the back. "Merquén?” Yes, that would do quite nicely.

Merquén, also spelled merkén, is a Chilean spice mixture not often seen in the states. That’s slowly changing, and for good reason—the potent combo of ground cacho de cabra chiles, coriander, cumin, and salt adds a pop of smoky complexity to dishes that few other spice mixes can match. Merquén makes an excellent addition to omelettes, mussel and tomato soupsteak rubs, and nearly any savory dish with sweet undertones.

I can attest that it makes a divinely fiery foil to a creamy soup. And now I’m hooked. 

At $7.95, this bottle from Etnia is a bit pricier than your average grocery store spice. But it’s well worth the investment. It could be just the thing your dish is missing.