NYTimes magazine predicted a few months ago that this Turkish pepper would be popping up all over the place, and I’m so happy for it. This is an IT spice if ever there was one.
Urfa biber is made by coarse-grinding a Turkish chili called the Urfa chili. These chilies are grown in southeastern Turkey, close to Syria. They range in color from burgundy to purplish-black, and they go through a two-part process, alternatingly dried in the sun and wrapped overnight – a process that develops the amazingly smoky, sweet and earthy character of the pepper.
The flavor is like ancho chilies on steroids, although it has a little more heat. It hits you more at the front of your tongue, in a black pepper kind-of-way, and has a beautiful smokiness to it. This is my go-to these days for grilled meats, but I also use them in Sunday breakfast scrambled eggs with pancetta and green onions and to give sautéed fish more depth of flavor.
The peppers have a pretty high oil content, and the ground spice should look shiny. I keep it in my freezer, and it stays for months that way. Here are two sources for the spice: World Spice Merchants and Kalustyan’s.