If you eat Mexican you’ll know that there’s more to salsa than meets the eye. There are lots of different types, and everyone makes their version a little different. Pico de gallo is fresh and sweet, finely chopped tomatoes, onions and coriander mixed with lime or lemon juice (and chillies, garlic, pepper or anything else you like to chuck in there). In the US, I’ve had some amazing dipping salsas, thinner and smoother than the ones I’m used to, but no less fresh or flavourful. Other varieties are more concentrated and cooked, not raw: rich concoctions of tomatoes, chillies and pepper.
These are the salsas that The Hot Chilli Republic create. Their range of hot chilli salsas are based on South American recipes. They’re not joking about the hot bit but there are three heat levels: cool, medium and hot so you can match the heat to your palate. Guess which is my favourite?
If you’ve visited Edinburgh Foody before, you might be aware that I am fond of hot sauce. I’m also a fan of salsa and have been making a tinned tomato-based version of raw tomato salsa for years. It’s easy: a tin of tomatoes, a clove of garlic, finely chopped chilli to taste, lemon (or lime) juice to taste, spring onions and a bunch of coriander. That’s not the only salsa in the world, but it’s the one I eat the most often. When I make fish tacos, I tend to make pico de gallo because of it’s crunchy texture.
The Hot Chilli Republic’s hot salsas are very different from the salsa I make. They aren’t sloppy, they aren’t bright red and they don’t taste mostly of tinned tomatoes and lemon juice. Instead they are smooth and definitely saucy, a rusty orange in colour and complex of flavour. The heat develops slowly and isn’t over-powering, even in the hottest of the three salsas.
The ingredients are simple: tomatoes, peppers, onions, chillies, garlic, salt, sugar, spices, oil, and malt vinegar. The end product is fresh but complex. It reminds me of one of two of my favourite condiments: ajvar and Cholula hot sauce. It has the texture, colour and undeniable red pepper taste of ajvar, but the delightful heat of Cholula.
How to Eat it
The mild salsa makes a lovely dipping sauce. It sticks to tortilla chips better than to carrot sticks, but it tastes great with either. It works well as a condiment wherever you want a little heat and sweet pepper flavour.
The medium and hot salsas I use as hot sauce replacements. Because they’re thicker, they wort where hot sauce doesn’t. Put a spoonful on a steak, or mix a small amount with butter to make a great spicy butter. Smear a table spoon of medium salsa over a slightly toasted tortilla wrap and fill it with pastrami and lettuce and you’ve got lunch. Or use it whenever you would use hot sauce: as a dip with crab cakes, as a burger condiment, or to hot up your own salsa.
Put spoonfulls of the hot salsa on chilli to get it to the heat you want. I like to add it on top rather than mix it in so that I get variety in every mouthful. Adding hot salsa to your chilli when its cooking adds depth and heat.
The Hot Chilli Republic’s salsas are versatile, fresh and full of flavour, they work as they are, or added to other foods. I really enjoyed them.
Where to Buy it
If you live around Leeds, you can buy salsas as a number of different farmers markets, from Leeds, to Humber Bridge and Beverley. If that’s not your area, you can also buy them online, from Maru Market and Amazon. The Hot Chilli Republic lists stockists on their Buy page, where you can find out more.