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Salsa served warm?

I was recently at a Mexican restaurant and the hot salsa was...well...hot. Like it had been deliberately warmed up.

I'm not an expert on Mexican cuisine, so I thought maybe this was an aspect of Mexican cuisine I was unfamiliar with. The restaurant was billing itself as upscale, gourmet Mexican food, so I wondered if I was just out of the loop on what that way. Despite the restaurant's pretense, the meal was completely blah and flavorless.

Is this a normal part of Mexican cuisine? Or was it just food I didn't like served at a restaurant that's not very good?

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  1. Was it a cooked sauce? Then I could see it, although it seems unusual. If it was a salsa cruda, heating it would defeat the purpose for me.

    1. I don't think i would like salsa served hot. I have alway had it with a sight chill or right out of the jar.

      1. I have indeed had warm salsa served to me a couple of times. It was more of a spiced cooked tomato puree as grayelf mentioned. The Mexican restaurants I go to range from Chipotle to the more authentic restaurants to the upscale, gourmet ones. Unfortunately I don't remember where I've had it.

        1. I'm in Chicago with a pretty dense Mexican population. There are PLENTY of places that serve one of their salsas warm. Usually (here) it will be a roasted chile de arbol salsa. We have lots of places that will welcome you with two or three different styles of salsas when you are seated at your table. Not a surprise if you were here that one of them would be warm.

          Having salsa warmed will not make it bad. The taste of the salsa would make it bad. If it's normal or not, I wouldn't dare answer, I'll defer to someone more knowledgeable. I would assume, however, that it is a normal regional thing in some parts of Mexico. Sounds like the "Gourmet Mexican" place you went to was just plain bad. Food that is "blah and flavorless" is not a normal regional Mexican style. Just because someone calls their food gourmet, doesn't mean it is.

          2 Replies
          1. re: gordeaux

            If Mexican salsa is fresh, fresh, it will be room temperature because all the ingredients are unrefrigerated at the time of purchase, which hopefully happened that morning at the green grocer. And tomatoes taste best at room temperature. Chilled mexican salsa is like day-old bread; it has seen a better day, and is struggling for a second chance.

          2. For salsa, I don't mind room temperature...but I have never had it hot...

            1. So, I guess serving the salsa warmed up wasn't bad, itself, although the restaurant overall was (it was a chain anyway). I'm not sure exactly what was in the salsa, but it was extremely smoky.

              It was definitely not what I was looking for when I went into a Mexican restaurant on a business trip. I like salsa to be a refreshing part of the meal, regardless of spice-level.

              1 Reply
              1. re: rweater

                I'm trying to think of any places that serve warmed or hot salsa here in SoCal...cant think of one. My guess is this chain was attempting to do a riff on Marinara dipping sauce...seems like something that some marketing person would come up with.....might be good if served as someone mentioned above, as a part of a salsa sampler but just hot salsa sounds pretty wrong to me.

              2. when I make a tomatillo salsa, I grill the tomatillos, serrano chilis, jalapenos, onions,and garlic cloves before running them through the food processor, so it is served warm when made fresh.

                1. I talked about Mercado Juarez's warm salsa here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/50556...
                  I think the "smokiness" could have been from mesquite smoked meat drippings (incorporated into the salsa) as I described, or could be from chipotles (being wood smoked (to dry) jalapenos). I think they classically use oak for chipotles.
                  Mercado Juarez's salsa was a cooked salsa. They're a Dallas-Ft. Worth area restaurant with three locations. The first 25 years ago. They call the salsa their "signature Warm Salsa Picante".The one they do is very good, IMO.

                  1. Gordito's in Seattle also serves their house salsa warm. It's fantastic, definitely some charred/roasted peppers or tomatoes in there.

                    1. The town where I live has a large Mexican population (mostly from the state of Hidalgo) and thus many authentic Mexican restaurants.

                      Most of these restaurants serve chips with three salsas: a cold salsa cruda, a warm smoky salsa which seems to be made with roast tomatoes and peppers, and a thin, hot salsa.

                      Good stuff.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: MsRetro

                        To clarify: you have one cold, one warm and one hot, referring to the temperature, not the spiciness? Is the thin just reddish/orange?

                        1. re: Scargod

                          Sorry! Yes, the mild salsa cruda is cold; the cooked salsa is served warm; the spicy salsa is served room temperature. The color of the spicy one varies by restaruant. In some places, they serve a thin, spicy salsa that is almost brown in color.

                          1. re: MsRetro

                            Then again at the Agave Grill in Puerto Vallarta they make a salsa tableside with roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic, three kinds of roasted peppers, fresh cilantro and fried onions plus spices that are all essentially at room temperature.

                      2. This warm salsa discussion reminds me that I intensely dislike cold salsa. Even cool. I don't think tha'ts right. How can the flavors and aroma come out? Similar to excessively cold beer.
                        I complained to one restaurant about this (and they agreed), saying that they were working on having batches sit out and warm up prior to being ladled out for serving.

                        1. The best salsa I have ever had is at a little restaurant in our town and it is served warm. If you have never had it you have to try it. I had never had it like that till we moved to the south. I can not find a recipe for it and would love to make some.

                          1. If it's a smokey salsa, that makes sense.