Mexico’s best salsas have been selected through a competition that invited the participation of salsa makers from all over the country.
“Presume tu salsa” (Show off your salsa) is a contest that was launched in 2017 by the food and beverage company Grupo Herdez to identify the best salsas from five different regions.
The competition was steep. In a first round, hopefuls were required to send a written copy of their recipes to a committee supervised by chef Jonathan Gómez Luna. Next, the committee narrowed down the recipes from over 12,340 to just three from each of the five regions.
For the next step, the authors of the recipes were required to prepare their salsas for a panel of judges that included recognized chefs, who assigned first, second and third place to the selected salsas from each region, each of whom received prize money of 100,000, 50,000 or 25,000 pesos respectively.
Additionally, the first-place winners of the competition have seen their salsas — in many cases treasured family traditions or a cook’s special recipe — bottled and sold in stores throughout the country, and featuring the name of the cook.
“Mexico is a country with a very important cultural and gastronomic diversity; there are certain recipes that are often very unique to certain regions, and so we gave ourselves the task of looking for the salsas that they make in those places,” said Dafne Maya of Grupo Herdez.
Angelina Ambrosio, winner of the best salsa for the southeastern region, now being sold by Herdez as Salsa La Picante, said she uses her salsa for her food stand in Oaxaca.
“My salsa comes from my ancestors, but I continued to develop it a bit more because previously it wasn’t as spicy as it is now. It’s made from a base of dry chiles along with garlic and other ingredients very easy to find in the market, but Oaxacan traditions give it a very flavorful touch.”
Silvia Mendoza from Guanajuato was the winner of the best salsa for the western region. She describes herself as a traditional cook who endeavors to diffuse old and modern gastronomic traditions from Pénjamo, Guanajuato, including her salsa, which is made from a base of nopal and xoconostle, the fruit of the nopal.
“It’s a very common salsa in this region, but since it is very elaborate [to prepare], it is being lost.”
She added that she was proud to see her salsa on the shelves of supermarkets — where it bears the name Salsa Asada — and that thousands would have the opportunity to try the traditional flavors of her region.
“Wherever there are proud Mexicans, there should also be tortillas and a great salsa.”