At every Tex-Mex restaurant in San Antonio you’ll be greeted with a basket of tortilla chips (pronounce it: tour-TEE-ah) and a bowl of salsa. Salsa just means “sauce” in Spanish. Every country has their own: piri-piri in Peru, chimichurri in Argentina and mojo in Cuba. The typical Mexican sauce is called salsa picante, but we just call it salsa. Most restaurants make their own (if they don’t, go somewhere else.) Salsas can range from fairly mild to burn-holes-in-the-roof-of-your-mouth hot, so take it easy at first. It sneaks up on you. Some restaurants, especially those catering to visitors with palates unaccustomed to our fiery flavors, will offer a choice.
New York City! Pace, makers of this famous picante sauce, was bought out by Campbell’s in 1994 for $1.2 Billion. The owner, Kit Goldsbury, used some of the money to start the property development company Silver Ventures, which developed The Pearl, which is on the Sunday Texas Trail Roundup route. There is always a connection!
Salsa Roja (Pronounce it: ROW-ha) usually includes cooked tomatoes, chili peppers, onion, garlic, and fresh cilantro (coriander).
Salsa Verde, (Pronounce it: VAIR-day) “green sauce,” is made with tomatillos, usually cooked. The tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica), also known as the Mexican husk tomato, is a plant of the nightshade family bearing small, spherical and green or green-purple fruit. It’s more closely related to the gooseberry than the tomato and is slightly tart.
Salsa ranchera, “ranch-style sauce,” is made with roasted tomatoes, various chilies, and spices, and is typically is served warm.
Picante sauce is the name usually reserved for commercially bottled salsa, which must be cooked to be preserved. Picante is a Spanish adjective meaning “piquant”, which derives from picar (“to sting”.) In other words, spicy sauce.
Pico de gallo, also known as salsa fresca (“fresh sauce”), salsa picada (“chopped sauce”), or salsa mexicana (“Mexican sauce”), is made with raw tomatoes, lime juice, chilies, onions, cilantro leaves, and other coarsely chopped raw ingredients. Pronounce it: PEEK-koh day GUY-oh
Salsa Cruda is similar to pico de gallo. but blended to a finer texture. “Cruda” means “raw.”
These things that you dip your tortillas into aren’t salsas, but are usually listed on the appetizer menu; you’ll pay extra for:
Queso: Chile con queso is hot melted cheese mixed with chile peppers. We just call it queso (pronounce it: CHILL-ay cone KAY-so.) To make it at home San Antonio folks generally mix Velveeta brand processed cheese with a can of Ro*Tel brand tomatoes with green chilis, and microwave until melted. A more authentic recipe might use Monterrey jack cor a Mexican cheese such as asadero or queso quesadilla mixed with crema (sour cream.) Many restaurants also serve it mixed with chorizo, a flavorful Mexican sausage.
Guacamole is a composite of two Aztec words meaning avocado and mixture. The basic ingredients in guacamole are ripe Haas avocados, onion, salt and freshly-squeezed lime juice. Common additions include cilantro, tomato, and jalapeño, serrano or poblano peppers.
A jar or two of salsa makes a nice take-home souvenir from San Antonio Our grocery stores have their own salsa aisles. This is our current favorite: not too hot, and a sweet roasted flavor. You can get it at HEB (there’s a store around the corner from the event hotel.)