Mexican Salsa Roja

salsaroja_latinaish

We gather in the small apartment kitchen, myself, Carlos, our friend Mando and his very pregnant wife, Naji. They have invited us over for dinner again and this time they welcome us behind the curtain that separates the kitchen from the living room, to watch them prepare the meal together.

They work in perfect rhythm, this young couple from Veracruz, never fighting for space at the stove. She drops a handful of chiles into a sizzling pot of oil and while she’s turned to the counter to chop tomato, Mando reaches over to add seasoning to the diced lengua and stir it with a wooden spoon.

“Cocina usted, Don?” Mando asks Carlos, using the nickname his Mexican co-workers had given him his first day on the job.

Carlos laughs, “Honestamente, ella cocina casi todo,” he responds.

“Tiene que aprender, Don, para que usted le ayude a ella,” Mando says, surprising me with his lack of machismo. He tells us how he diced the lengua the night before, that it took him two hours, and I can see why. The meat is in perfect, uniform cubes, each one smaller than a sweet pea.

I ask Naji if she’d mind me writing down the recipe for the salsa she’s making. This, I realize, is the bright orange salsa I love – the one Carlos often brings home from work in a twisted plastic bag, a gift from Mando’s lunchbox. Naji smiles and tells me to go ahead. I pull out a little notebook and pen from my bag, I start scribbling down the ingredients and the generous extra tips she gives me.

Soon the kitchen fills with all the delicious scents of tacos de lengua. The meat is seasoned and cooked, the salsa prepared, the cabbage finely chopped with a large, sharp knife. Naji warms corn tortillas and cuts limes into wedges while Mando pours glasses of agua de uva. Now it is time to sit together at the table and eat this meal made with love.

Mexican Salsa Roja

Ingredients:

• 2 generous handfuls of chiles guajillos secos – stems removed
(use chiles japones secos for spicier salsa)
• 2 large tomatoes chopped (or 1 can diced tomates, 14.5 oz, no salt added, undrained)
• 1/2 a medium onion
• 1 tsp. minced fresh garlic
• 3 tbs. canola oil
• 2 cups water
• 1 1/4 tsp. salt
• 1 can chiles in adobo, 7 oz. (optional)

Directions:

1. In a medium-sized pot over medium heat, add oil, dried chiles, onion and garlic. Chiles should have stems removed. When you remove stems, seeds will fall out. Include the seeds in the pot.

2. Stir continuously taking care not to let it burn. After a minute or two, add tomato. Stir over medium heat another 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. In a blender combine 2 cups water, salt and contents of pot.

4. Blend 1 minute until mostly smooth. (If you prefer a thinner salsa, add more salted water and blend.)

5. This step is optional: To make the salsa spicier and add a lot of flavor, add 1 can chiles in adobo. Blend for another 30 seconds.

6. Return contents to pot. Stir salsa over medium heat for 2 minutes.

7. Allow to cool.

8. Keep refrigerated in jar or container for 1 week. (You could also can or freeze it.) Use on tacos or anything you like.

24 thoughts on “Mexican Salsa Roja

  1. que perfecto que has puesto esta receta ahorita! Pasamos mañana ala casa de mis primos, y una prima me pidió hacer las salsas. Normalmente hago salsa verde o de molcajete pero casi nunca de rojo. Andaba buscando una receta cuando recibí esta de ti! Mil gracias, voy a hacerlo con chiles piquin para que sea aún mas picosa!

    • Oooo, chiles piquín! Now you’re talking! Hope it turns out well for you. Let me know!

      Note: When I made this on my own I used 1 1/2 cups salted water (which is what I estimated my friend used since she doesn’t measure anything!) but the salsa came out a little thick so I changed this recipe to 2 cups water and upped the salt a little. Hopefully that’s about right but you may have to add a little more. Just check the consistency while it’s still in the blender and adjust if needed!

      • It turned out great! I did it with guajillo, a few arboles, and maybe 6 piquín. I also added some cilantro while it blended. It was delicious. I’m so glad you posted this!

  2. I want to try this! But I’m not sure where to get chiles guajillos secos, are the in the produce section or usually in a bag in the ethnic foods section? Or do I need to go to a tienda latina

    • Hola Julie! the dried chiles can be found at your Latino market in large bags, usually on the wall where all the spices are in smaller bags.

      If you live in an area with a decent Latino population, sometimes you can find these bags at Wal-Mart. They are usually kept between the produce section and the deli on one of those displays where you find jars of garlic.

      So you know what you’re looking for, here is what they might look like (the first two are the brands I buy most often but it doesn’t matter:

      http://www.walmart.com/ip/Badia-Guajillo-Chili-3-oz-Pack-of-12/17340545

      http://www.mexgrocer.com/9658.html

      If you have any more questions, I’m here to help!

      • I’ll tell you a secret about why they are pretty much the same, regardless of brand: Normally, this packing companies are US based, and they buy the chiles or whatever they pack from the same importer, and all they do is pack it. So, their products most of the time are the same. I love cooking, and are kinda good at it, so I know a little bit about this things. The only thing that I’ve tried to duplicate and just can’t, is Lucina’s recipe for tamales. We make tamales almost every weekend, cause some time ago, she made some and gave to some friends, now they order them all the time from us. Now, we were not planning on becoming tamal makers, but life is weird. So once I tried mixing the masa myself and it did not work, so ever since then, I cook the meats, cut the chiles, cheese, make the salsas, and fold the tamales, but don’t even try with the masa. I rather not mess with perfection. So, some time ago I started this recipe website, and most of the recipes are mine (Lucina calculates stuff “a la mexicana” so we never know how much of what). There may be a couple you may want to try. The site is NEVER going to be complete, but I try to update it every once in awhile. I really recommend the “Salsa de aguacate”
        lacocinadelucina.com
        Hope you find something useful, and if so, let me know how things worked out.

      • Piece of advice: If you can, buy the chiles bulk, it is way cheaper, but the chiles are the same. Buy them by weight, instead of packed. One of these years, I’ll bring you the recipe for Enchilada salsa, which is very similar to the tamal salsa roja. (For tamales, we make some with chicken with green salsa, or pork with red salsa, other with mole, etc.)

  3. I am BEYOND excited to try this! In Mexico, there was a taqueria across the street that had an orange one like this. I only ever wanted to go THERE for quesadillas all the time. So yummy. Thank you thank you :)

  4. This sounds wonderful! Do you rehydrate the dried chili’s first, or just throw the dried chili’s in the oil? Or was she using fresh chilis? I can’t wait to try this! I am going to use the Japones because I like spicy things :)

    • Highly recommend using the japones. The guajillos are too mild for my liking. Don’t attempt to rehydrate them or anything – you just throw those dry chiles right into the oil the way they are, (no stems though!)

  5. Pingback: Pescado, Cerveza y Invitados Inesperados | Latinaish

  6. Made this today. 1 oz. japones, 1 oz.juajillo very good. sweat on my chin. It made a ton. about 5 cups. gonna last awhile. Hoping it freezes well. Gracias Tracy

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