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Mexican Salsas

October 2, 2018 BY Dax & Mauricio

INTRODUCTION:

Salsa is the number one condiment in America and the most common condiment kept in a Mexican home. As in a U.S. household where you will find mayonnaise and ketchup in every refrigerator to add to most dishes, salsas are the go-to flavor enhancer in authentic Mexican dishes.

The use of salsas dates back to Aztec times. The primitive version of salsas ground up raw or roasted tomatoes, peppers, and salt using a molcajete (lava stone mortar). This technique produced a simplistic version of the present-day salsa. The sauce was served in a clay bowl for easy dipping of tortillas or tamales. After the conquistadores arrived in the Americas, the salsas slowly began to evolve into what we know today. With the addition of onions, garlic, herbs and spices, the flavors became richer with a deeper complexity than the Aztec’s original recipes.

The primary ingredients of a salsa are the tomato or tomatillo, a type of pepper, onion, garlic, and salt. The addition of extra ingredients varies widely by regions, and individual recipes. Other major flavor drivers of the salsa depend on the method of cooking and the type of pepper used. For example, salsas that are roasted have a deeper sweeter chard flavor as opposed to a fresh salsa which is more vibrant and herbal. In traditional Mexican salsa recipes, it is common for the sauces to carry the name of the pepper used in them—like the salsa de arbol, which is a red sauce made with of course, the chile de arbol. Also, if ingredients like herbs, seeds, spices or other fruits are added, the complexity of flavors of the salsas increases, giving them a unique flavor profile.

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Salsa Verde

Other Names: Salsa verde casera, salsa verde taquera, Green salsa, Tomatillo salsa Phonetically: sahl-suh vur-dee

Key Ingredients: Tomatillo verde, serrano, onion, garlic, and salt

Flavor Profiles: Mildly spicy sweet acidic taste, with floral fresh green notes

Cooking Process: Both tomatillo and peppers are softened in simmering water. Then, everything is combined using a blender or food processor.

Served:

  • Often used in dishes like, chilaquiles, posole verde, or pork ribs in salsa verde
  • Commonly served on the side to be added on to tacos, tortas, and other Mexican dishes

Information:

  • One of the most popular Mexican sauces in the U.S.
  • For a more heat intensive sauce, the jalapeno can be switched for a serrano pepper
  • Cilantro and oregano are commonly added to intensify the overall flavor

Region: Known and used in all of Mexico with slight variances

  • Most people in the northern states will boil the tomatillo and peppers
  • Most people in the southern states will puree everything raw

Salsa Roja De Arbol

Other Names: Salsa roja casera, salsa roja taquera, Red salsa

Phonetically: sahl-suh roh-juh

Key Ingredients: Tomato, tomatillo verde, chile de arbol, garlic, onion, and salt

Flavor Profiles: A seedy overripe tomato taste, with a bitter sweet and mild to high spicy intensity flavor Cooking Process: The tomatillo, tomato and chile de arbol are softened over boiling water. The peppers can also be toasted instead of boiled for a more rich and intense flavor. Then everything is pureed using a blender or a food processor.

Served:

  • Often used in dishes like chilaquiles and stews
  • Commonly served on the side to be added on to tacos, tortas, and other Mexican dishes

Information:

  • One of the most popular Mexican sauces in the U.S.
  • For a less intensive heat the chile de arbol can be switched to a less spicy pepper like a guajillo or California. This allows for uses in enchiladas, posole rojo and other red sauce based dishes
  • Can be made with or without tomatillo to reduce the acidic and bitter flavor
  • Spices like cumin and cloves are sometimes provided to add a more complex flavor

Region: Known and used in all of Mexico with slight variances

  • Most people in the northern states will boil the tomato, tomatillo and peppers, and add cumin and
    clove to balance the strong flavor of goat meat which is commonly used
  • Most people in the southern states will boil the tomato and tomatillos, and toast the peppers

Guacamole

Other Names: N/A

Phonetically: gwah-kah-mohl-le

Key Ingredients: Tomato, onion, serrano, avocado, lime, garlic, cilantro, and salt

Flavor Profiles: A creamy, buttery, acidic sweet taste, with a distinctive green grassy herbal alliaceousness, floral flavor and a hint of heat

Cooking Process: Guacamole is served fresh; no cooking is involved. The process involves using a molcajete, or a mortar and pestle, to turn the garlic into a puree. Then, the avocado is added and mashed along with the salt and lime juice. Once the avocado is mashed, the diced tomato, diced onion, rough chop cilantro and salt are folded into the sauce.

Served:

  • Mostly served fresh as a dip for totopos (tortilla chips)
  • Accompanies other Mexican dishes, like flautas and enchiladas thanks to its creamy rich texture
  • Commonly served on the side or in a small dollop as a visual garnish

Information:

  • One of the most commonly known Mexican sauces in the US making it to the top “must have” dips for parties
  • The serrano can be replaced by jalapeno to reduce the heat level, or if the serrano is not available
  • The guacamole name comes from Nahuatl (Uto-Aztecan language) which means avocado mole, in
    other words, avocado sauce

Region: Known and used in all of Mexico with slight variances


Salsa De Molcajete

Other Names: Salsa tatemada, salsa asada machacada, Roasted tomato salsa, Roasted salsa Phonetically: sal-suh day mohl-Kah-hete

Key Ingredients: Tomato, chile guero, garlic, onion, and salt

Flavor Profiles: A chard seedy green taste, with a spicy sweet and bitter flavor

Cooking Process: The tomato, chile guero, and garlic are roasted on a comal, or directly on the flame. These are then taken to a molcajete along with the chopped onion and salt, and mashed together until a chunky sauce is formed.

Served:

  • Often used in dishes like, tacos, chilaquiles, huevos en salsa tatemada, or simply served as a dip.

Information:

  • Roasting the tomatoes gives the sauce a sweet complex flavor, and by using a molcajete or a mortar and pestle you allow for each ingredient to properly release their flavor
  • Often the pepper is substituted with jalapeno or serrano, due to availability or to increase heat level

Region: Known and used in all of Mexico with slight variances


Pico De Gallo

Other Names: Salsa mexicana, salsa fresca

Phonetically: peeh-koh day gah-yoh

Key Ingredients: Tomato, chile serrano, onion, garlic, cilantro, lime, and salt

Flavor Profiles: A fresh herbal grassy/viney taste with a hot acidic sweet alliaceous flavor

Cooking Process: This is a sauce that doesn’t need any cooking, it is served fresh. The tomato, serrano and onion are diced and tossed with the pureed garlic chopped cilantro, lime juice and salt.

Served:

  • Mostly served fresh as a dip for totopos (tortilla chips)
  • It also accompanies other Mexican dishes, like tacos, and a lot of seafood dishes

Information:

  • The serrano can be replaced by jalapeno to reduce the heat level, or if the serrano is not available
  • Also called salsa Mexicana due to the colors the main ingredients portray which are the same colors of the Mexican flag
  • This is the salsa that has the best name recognition in America and the most menu incidences

Region: Known and used in all of Mexico with slight variances


Salsa Borracha

Other Names: Salsa borracha nortena, salsa de chile chilaca seco, Drunken salsa

Phonetically: sah-suh day Bow-rah-chah

Key Ingredients: Tomato, chile pasilla, onion, garlic, cilantro, and pulque (a fermented agave beverage often replaced with tequila and orange juice for this salsa)

Flavor Profiles: A toasted chili and alcohol taste, with a bitter, sweet, fruity flavor. Low to mild heat level. Cooking Process: The chile pasilla is lightly pan-fried and the tomatoes are roasted on all sides. Then, all the ingredients are blended until smooth. Once this sauce is pureed, it is placed in a sauce pan and brought to boil. It simmers for two minutes before being ready to serve.

  • Often used in dishes with meats, like carne asada, pollo asado, and tacos
  • Pairs really well with any meat dishes

Served:

  • Salsa Borracha is traditionally served with grilled meats such as steak or carne asada. However we are starting to see it served alongside eggs, street tacos, and roast chicken.

Information:

  • Very well known and used in the northern and central states of Mexico thanks to the use of pulque, which is abundant in these areas
  • Pulque is a fermented alcohol beverage made from the maguey, a type of agave, and for this sauce, it can be replaced with tequila and freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Commonly topped with anejo cheese

Region: Known and used in most of the northern and central states with slight variances.

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