Prior to the 1958 World Cup, Mexican soccer player José Gerardo “Jamaicón” Villegas and his team attended a banquet in Portugal, where he could not help but feel nostalgic for the food of his homeland. Thoughtful and sad, he left the table. A popular expression was coined in reference to this evening and ever since, the phenomenon of Mexicans missing Mexican flavors when they are out of the country is known as “The Jamaicón Syndrome”.
Mexicans and the Mexican diaspora are inextricably attached to the tastes of home: to corn in all its various preparations and forms, to the smoked, to the spicy. Today we will talk a little about this last element in its most representative form – salsas.
Pico de gallo
Considered a salsa although it could almost qualify as a salad, it is fresh, raw, and mild. Popular even outside of Mexico, pico is usually prepared with chopped tomato, onion, serrano chile, and cilantro and seasoned with lime and salt. It accompanies molletes, seafood cocktails and ceviche, eggs, and many other dishes.
Salsas verde y roja
This pairing is as ubiquitous on the Mexican table as salt and pepper. Verde, or green, and roja – red salsa, are not so different. Their color depends on whether they contain a base of either tomatillo or tomato. Aside from that, the ingredients can be similar or the same and typically include cilantro, onion, garlic, and, of course, chilies – serrano, jalapeño, chipotle, morita, to name a few. They can be prepared raw or with cooked ingredients.
Originally from Veracruz, this “brave salsa” is prepared mainly with dried chile de árbol, crushed in oil. There are also varieties with morita, piquín, or chipotle chiles. Sesame, peanuts, and/or pumpkin seeds can be added. Sometimes sweet but always spicy.
As you might guess from its name, this sauce contains alcohol. This “drunken salsa” is prepared with beer, sometimes with pulque or tequila, and chile pasilla. An excellent accompaniment to birria, barbacoa, or pozole.
Salsa de habanero
A must with Yucatecan cuisine, habanero is famous the world around for its floral spiciness.
Despite being one of the hottest chiles, habanero – in reasonable quantities – does not irritate the stomach. As a curious fact, there is a habanero salsa similar to pico de gallo, called xnipec, which in one Mayan language means dog’s snout – maybe because it makes you drool like a dog!
Convenient, standardized, easy to obtain – this style of salsa has seen a huge increase in variety, made with different chili peppers and ranging from basic to gourmet options. A perfect solution for spicing up a dish or snacks – or for nationals outside of Mexico, as they can cure, even if only momentarily, the Jamaicón syndrome.