salsa criolla > chimichurri

Buenos Aires is not a city of many condiments nor sauces.

Mayonnaise is probably the most popular.  You’ll commonly see it served in a squeeze bag alongside a bowl of lettuce and shredded carrots or mixed with canned tuna, rice, and boiled egg.  Yikes, Argentina!!

Standing in second place would be chimichurri, which unfortunately I’ve found to be rather flat.  The chimichurris I had back in NYC were always made with blended fresh herbs & garlic and here they’re dried herbs with vinegar & oil.  It’s good, but not great.  I mean, why use dried herbs and when you have fresh?!  And don’t even bother bringing jars of the local chimichurri as gifts for family & friends back home.  They are so tasteless and not worth the weight and possible luggage combustion.

Luckily there is salsa criolla, translated to raw salsa, and it’s packing both flavor and texture.  It’s the type of condiment you can eat on its own by the spoonful.  Salsa criolla is simply diced tomato, red pepper, onion, & minced garlic with a bit of vinegar & oil and some spices.  I like to think of it as the pico de gallo of Argentina!

A few weeks back we had a rooftop asado and my favorite gal pal from Cali decided to make her salsa criolla as part of her ‘farewell Buenos Aires, it’s been a good 5 years’ tribute.  We put it on everything-  choripan, charred potatoes, roasted peppers & onions, chinchulínes, kidneys, beef for days.  It was a bloody feast with fancy bottles of my favorite red Bonarda and Riesling, a grape that I was unaware that they had in Argentina.  The only thing missing was sweetbreads (mollejas in Spanish) my latest OBSESSION.   More of that to come in the near future.

Bueno.  The next afternoon I made an omelete with the leftover peppers & onions and chorizo.  The salsa criolla was the perfect companion cutting the creaminess of the eggs and the sweetness of the peppers & onions.  You could say it was an asado omelete.  The perfect way to utilize leftovers from the grill.

In Buenos Aires I’ll take salsa criolla any day over mayonnaise and/or chimichurri.  What about you?!  Am I missing any Argie condiments worthy of praise?

Salsa Criolla  ::  (compliments of my gal pal now in Cali)

  • white or yellow onion
  • red pepper
  • tomato
  • garlic
  • vinegar (white or apple)
  • sunflower oil (olive is too strong, use something neutral!)
  • cumin
  • red chili pepper or red pepper flakes or paprika
  • sea salt & pepper

Chop onions, add sea salt and cover with vinegar, I actually prefer just plain old white vinegar.  Leave for ten minutes at least.

Meanwhile chop up the tomato and red pepper, if you use a whole one of each item it makes a ton, so I usually use only a half for an entire asado.

Add all your spices to the onions & vinegar when you’re ready to mix everything: tsp or more of cumin, tsp or more of that nonspicy red chili pepper they use (sweet paprika), pepper, etc.

When I was at your house I did a criolla/chimmichurri mix, adding raw garlic, fresh parsley, and a whole slew of chimmichurri spices that they sell there in packs.  Maybe paprika, I just throw in whatever I have.

Once you’ve mixed the tomatoes and bell pepper in with the onion/spice/vinegar mixture, cover it all in a good dousing of oil.

Mix it all together and, what do they say? Bob’s your uncle.