A refreshing way to enjoy chamoy


Though salsa and guacamole get more attention, chamoy, a lesser-known Mexican condiment, might be more important. This fruit-based sauce is sweet, sour, salty, bitter and very spicy all at once, a complete flavor profile that goes with everything.

Chamoy embodies a certain boldness that’s common in Mexican food. The cuisine is alive and evolving, guided by deep traditions but not bound to them and interconnected by an ethos that finds it perfectly sensible to unroll a tamale onto a hot dog bun.

Chamoy tastes vaguely like barbecue sauce, and I love shoveling it into my mouth atop crispy pork. Most other meats are equally chamoyable. And if it’s chamoyable, it’s enjoyable. Smeared on a slice of melon, chamoy adds a surprising balance. On the rim of a frosty pint glass, it makes your beer more quenching. Mixed with mayo, you might as well put the stuff into an IV bag so I can mainline it.

We can direct our gratitude to a recipe from the other side of the world. Chamoy is a legacy of a small Japanese Mexican population. Originally made with salted Japanese plums called ume, the sauce is now made with dried apricots and prune plums. This chamoy, which I’m going to tell you how to make at home, is relatively wholesome compared to the stuff from the store that’s usually made with corn starch, xanthan gum, sodium benzoate and Red No. 40. Those bottled chemicals are a faint approximation of the real chamoy, which has only fruit, lime, chili powder, salt and sugar.

My favorite way to use chamoy is in a brilliant dish called mangonada. There are many ways to arrange and serve this cold, sassy treat, my favorite being a mango popsicle that you dip into a well of chamoy. So, today, we have two recipes. The one for chamoy is the most important because this sauce will make you a true Mexican chef. But the one for mangonada is also crucial because it might be your favorite way to use chamoy — and the best thing you try as the weather heats up.

Chamoy sauce

It’s the flavor that keeps Mexico masticating. A lot of chamoy recipes use hibiscus, which is relatively subtle compared to the other ingredients, but it does add a nice level of complexity.

1/4 cup dried hibiscus flowers
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup dried prunes
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons chili powder (mild, medium or hot, depending on your inclinations)
5 tablespoons lime juice

Boil four cups of water and add the hibiscus. Strain the flowers and return the tea to the pot. Add the apricots, prunes, salt, sugar and chili powder. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes. Transfer to a blender. Add the lime juice and blend until smooth. Adjust seasonings if you wish. It should be strong but balanced.

Mangoneada, aka the boss

This refreshing concoction depends on strong flavors that are cantilevered against one another, like a sailor leaning off the side of a yacht to keep it from capsizing.

3 cups fresh mango chunks
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup chamoy

Blend the mango, lime juice and sugar. Pour the slurry into 8- or 10-ounce plastic cups until they’re about two-thirds full, then put them in the freezer. When they’re partially frozen, add popsicle sticks. When they’re totally frozen, they’re ready to serve.

To serve, remove a popsicle from its cup and pour in the chamoy. Put the popsicle back in the cup so it squeezes the chamoy about the sides. Let the popsicle sit for a moment so the outer surface can soften and absorb some chamoy. Lick and recoat with chamoy as necessary.



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