Los Cabos Guide to Good Eating
GRINGO'S GUIDE TO CHILI PEPPERS AND SALSAS
First off, a little vocabulary:
salsa means sauce.
media means mild.
picante means spicy.
muy means very.
verde means green.
rojo means red.
Okay, we're ready to go!
A general rule about chili peppers is "the smaller the pepper the hotter the taste." You can somewhat control the "heat" by adding or removing the seeds because that's the hottest part of any pepper. When cooking with chili peppers, always add a small amount at first and taste before adding more. Two different peppers of the same variety can have very different "heat" qualities and the Anaheim chili you used last time and thought was very mild might be too spicy for your taste next time. When it comes to the small fiery peppers use them sparingly and only add the seeds after you have become accustomed to them.
CAUTION: When working with peppers, either wear rubber gloves or wash you hands VERY THOROUGHLY afterwards. The juice tends to stay on you fingers and if you touch your eyes or your nose or wipe your bum...you will be SOOOO SORRY. The only antidote is to flush the burning area with massive amounts of cold water, jump up and down and shout "Ay Chihuahua!" or some other mild expletive.
There are more salsas on earth than you and I have dreamed of...or at least it seems that way. These are some of the ones that you will see most often.
PICO DE GALLO - This what you will get if you ask for chips and salsa. It's a combination of freshly chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro and jalapeno peppers. Usually not too hot and sometimes downright mild depending on how much chili pepper was used and if the seeds were included. Taste a little before you sprinkle a whole lot on your food. Once you learn the basic taste, you'll see how much variety there is from one restaurant to another. Some people add fresh chopped garlic and I've even had it with chopped cucumber. The fresher the Pico de Gallo the better. It starts to get watery and loses it's crispness when it's been standing around too long. It's very easy to make at home, check the web for recipes, there's a lot of good ones out there. Once you've had the really good stuff you'll never be satisfied with "Taco Bell" salsa again.
SALSA PICANTE - The very popular red hot salsa that aficianados of Mexican food cannot do without. It can be anywhere from media picante to muy picante. Try a little on your finger first. Some of our favorite brands are Tapatio, Cholula, Huichol and Pico Pico. You'll find bottles of these on most restaurant tables in Mexico. But definitely try the house version if they serve one. Some of them are great.
SALSA VERDE - A cooked green salsa made from green tomatoes, onions, green chilies and various other ingredients. Usually served as a milder alternative to red salsa.
TOMATILLO - A cooked green sauce made from tomatillos, which are a small green tomato-like vegetable that grows wrapped in a paper-like husk. They have a distinct taste and are not the same as unripened green tomatoes. Usually a mild sauce, very flavorful. Works well on egg, cheese and beef dishes.
CHIPOTLE - A dark brown salsa made from roasted chili peppers. It has a smoky flavor and is mildly spicy. Very good on a taco salad.
After these basics, you're on your way. There are fruit salsas, like mango, papaya and pineapple. There are salsas that have vegetables in them. There are salsas made from every variety of pepper, salsas of every taste and color (well, maybe not blue...the only blue salsa I've ever seen stayed in the refrigerator too long...be careful of that one). Other than that, be adventurous and you're bound to discover some great salsa. Buen Provecho! (that's something like Bon Appetit!)
See the rest of the Los Cabos Shopping Guide:
Los Cabos Grocery Shopping Guide
Los Cabos Beer, Wine, & Liquor Shopping Guide
Los Cabos Gift Shopping Guide
Nuts & Bolts: Hardware Shopping Guide
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