My Korean son in law is always telling me that I need to put my cooking on my blog or start a video blog for You Tube with my cooking, so I am listening, and at least, you are going to get a little of my cooking. A long time ago, I knew that I was going to be living in other countries, and I knew that packaged mixes just weren’t going to make it in other countries, so I learned to make a lot of things that I like from scratch so I could take them with me. A Mexican lady from Chihuahua, Mexico taught me a lot about Mexican food, and this is one of the recipes she taught me adapted to where I am. One of the things I have had to do as I have lived in several countries is to adapt my recipes to whatever I can find. Having to adapt has taught me a lot. I learn how to cook the food from the country where I live, and I also learn how to cook the things I like with the ingredients I can find. The Mexican salsa recipe is one that we all love, and one that you can adapt to your taste.
You can find Mexican salsa in Korea in the grocery stores. However, there is one big problem. All the salsa they sell is the spiciest it can be. They don’t sell mild salsa at all, and rarely can you find medium hot. The meaning of spicy to a Korean is very, very hot. If you buy something and want to know if it is spicy, don’t ask a Korean. Even if they tell you “no,” you may find it extremely spicy, so spicy you can’t eat it, but they are so accustomed to the spice, it isn’t spicy to them. Since we are Americans, the best way for us to eat salsa in Korea is to make it ourselves.
First of all, to make Mexican salsa, you need the right ingredients. You need an onion, a tomato, a bell pepper, salt, pepper, and cooking oil. The ingredients are very simple. I have learned variations that work well with these, and the Mexican lady told me when she taught me how to make them that you make it to your own taste.
For example, if you think you want it spicy, add a jalapeno pepper to the mix. I learned when I was in Romania that the colorful peppers have more flavor than the regular green bell peppers. They Romanians have a large red, orange, or yellow pepper they call gogoshar. I don’t know the English for this kind of pepper, but they are the most delicious peppers you can find. The last time I went shopping here, there were no gogoshar, so I bought small colorful peppers because I have learned they also have a good flavor. Personally, I never use the jalapeno peppers, but there are people who aren’t Koreans who like spicy food. If you are one of them, put the jalapeno in your salsa.
As for the tomatoes, the tomatoes will give taste as well as liquid to your salsa. I usually use one or two large tomatoes, but the last time I went shopping, I didn’t find large tomatoes unless I bought about 20 at once, so I bought cherry tomatoes. Koreans like to sell large packages of vegetables, and if I buy them, they will go bad before we can eat them all. Cherry tomatoes are very popular in Korea. They snack on them quite often, and today, I have cherry tomatoes.
With the onions, I was taught to use one whole onion. However, my family has trouble with too much onion, so I only use half an onion. The best tasting onions are the white ones. If you can’t find regular big onions, I have been known to use green onions, and they work for this too. I have spent my life having to substitute things since I have actually lived in 8 different countries, and I know how to cook with almost nothing. I know the substitutions. The best kind to use is the white onions. The yellow onions don’t taste or smell as good as the white ones. If you are using the yellow onions or the white onions still seem too strong for you, I learned from the Japanese that after you cut your onions up, if you soak them in a bowl of ice water for a while before you use them, they loose some of their potency.
As for the cooking oil, we usually buy whatever is the cheapest. However, if we begin worrying about health, we might buy olive oil here. Some people worried about their health here also buy grape seed oil, but they are expensive, and we watch our money. Often we buy soy bean oil because of the price, but today, I have corn oil. When we lived in Romania, we couldn’t find cooking oil at the store, so I had to make cooking oil. I used to make lard to cook with, and lard works. If all you have is lard or hard shortening, it works.
The first thing I do is wash the vegetables and cut them up in very, very small pieces. After that, I put the cooking oil in the pan and turn the fire on low. I put the onion in first because I want to make sure the onion is cooked very well or I may have some people who don’t appreciate my salsa. I saute the onion, then I add the tomatoes and peppers. I stir it, and cook everything together. While cooking, I add salt and pepper. The Mexican lady didn’t teach me to do this, but I also sprinkle a little chili powder in mine for extra taste. I keep cooking the mixture until it turns into a chunky sauce, stirring occasionally. It doesn’t take long. Don’t cook it on too high of a fire. Tomatoes burn very easily.
I turn the fire off and put the salsa in a bowl. I cover it and put it in the fridge so it will be there for dinner this evening. I also wash my dishes right away because I don’t have a dishwasher. They are rare in S. Korea. I try hard not to let the dishes get out of hand because if you don’t have a dish washer and don’t stay on top of it, people running in and out and using dishes all day can really mount up, so I am constantly washing just a few dishes so the dishes don’t become an overwhelming task. The salsa is in the fridge and waiting for me to use when I make dinner this evening. It was easy, and it is much tastier than anything we could buy in the store.