Hot Toppings: Minerva's Favorite Mexican Hot Sauces
Growing up in Hermosillo, in northern Mexico, in the 1980s, my school lunchbox was filled with healthy and delicious snacks of juicy orange wedges, crunchy cucumber spears, jicama slices drizzled with lime juice and sprinkled with salt and chile powder, and a cold can of Jumex brand mango nectar. I was one happy kid and well-fed kid.
Minerva Orduno Rincon Duritos and Valentina, pop corn, lime and Cholula.
-Minervaland: How to Eat Papaya
But on the rare occasion I released the pocket money out of my sweaty little hand, I traded it for a delicious bag of duritos, or Fritos for a real splurge, and a large pour of Salsa Yaqui, the locally made hot sauce of choice. Crunchy, airy flour chicharrones, crackling under the moisture of an acidic and spicy downpour from a big round, glass bottle. A lot of kids would drench their crunchy snack to the point of making it a soggy red and spicy mess before sucking it out of the bag.
As I am very much my mother's child, I preferred to eat them daintily, while still crunchy.
Unfortunately, Salsa Yaqui is extremely hard to come by around here, with trips to the big Mexican grocery stores and several mom-and-pop shops coming up empty-handed. Nevertheless, let's take a trip to the hot sauce aisle and get the scoop on some favorite Mexican hot sauces, and how to use them.
Mexican tables may be dominated by a variety of flavourful fresh spicy sauces, but street snacks are ruled by the bottle, with the state of Jalisco churning out more heat than a bag of duritos can handle; not to say the rest of the country is out of the hot sauce race. The reigning queen of Mexican-made hot sauces may be Cholula; with its perfect balance of acid and spice, it's hard to find someone who isn't addicted to this crimson liquid. I remember snagging a bottle from a particularly crappy Mexican restaurant in Detroit's northern suburbs 12 or 13 years ago to make up for the poor quality of the food. There is nothing I love more than lime juice and Cholula on popcorn.
Even with this hot appropriation, and having traveled internationally with it, Cholula is not my favorite of Mexican hot sauces: Give me my little known Salsa Huichol instead. This is perhaps the best 99 cents you will ever spend on food. Made with cascabel chiles since 1949 in the state of Nayarit, just north of Jalisco, this is the only hot sauce I enjoy putting on actual food, not just chips or popcorn. Ceviche tostadas are just not the same without it, and this is overall a great hot sauce for seafood and Bloody Mary's. Don't let that low price turn you off, even chef Silvana Salcido Esparza approved Tapatío, a domestic Jalisco-style sauce, is only 79 cents.
Today's two lessons: First, tapatío or tapatía is the designation for a person born in Jalisco's capital city, Guadalajara; second, a hot sauce doesn't have to be expensive to wake up your taste buds.