Most Mexican food is not in itself terribly spicy – the fire comes from the red and green salsa supplied as condiments on the table, and the salsa can be a good guide to the quality of a restaurant. A place with a superior salsa on the table will probably serve up some decent food, whereas a place that takes no pride in its salsa is likely to treat its food in the same manner. To a certain extent you can tell from the presentation: a place that has grubby, rarely changed salsa dishes probably just refills them from a supermarket-bought can, and will not take the same pride in its food as a casero (home-cooking) restaurant that proudly puts its own salsa on the table in a nice bowl. Usually you get a red salsa and a green one, and sometimes bottled hot-sauce condiments too.

Nowadays, the red bowl may contain a raw, California-style salsa: tomato, onion, chile and cilantro (coriander leaves) finely chopped together. More common, though, are the traditional cooked salsas: either green or red, and relatively mild (though start eating with caution, just in case). The recipes are – of course – closely guarded secrets, but the basic ingredients are tomato (the verdant Mexican tomatillo in green versions), onion and one or more of the hundreds of varieties of chile.

Read More

Explore Mexico



Travel Offers

20% off ebooks

Subscribe to the Rough Guides newsletter and get 20% off any ebook.

Join over 50,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month.