2010-03-18: Pico de Gallo
The other kind of southern cooking I like.
This is probably the last food post for a while, and then I will start blogging about my handcrafts again. But first let me show you one of my favourite food secrets.
It looks like an innocuous, prosaic bowl of fruit salad. Then you take a bite and find the most amazing, mouth-watering surprise: mixed in with the sweet is the tang of lime and the soft, slow burn of chile powder.
The first incarnation of pico de gallo I met is the typical one you find in most Mexican restaurants in Southern California: diced tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, and cilantro (coriander). It would usually get served with a basket of freshly made tortilla chips automatically, free with the meal. But one day when I was in high school we came across this powdered spice mix stuff called pico de gallo that said it was supposed to be served on fruit. Huh? We asked the guy who was selling the stuff and he explained that where he came from in Mexico, this was "real" pico de gallo and they had fruit salad with this stuff all the time. My family has always been reasonably adventurous on the food front (mainly thanks to my Mom), so we bought some slightly skeptically, but willing to try it out once.
Try it we did, and this dish remains one of my favourite things on a hot summer day.
It's been a long time since I've had this kind of pico de gallo, mainly because I was never entirely sure what goes in the special chile powder you sprinkle over the fruit. Rather than experiment with making my own, I finally ended up finding some here and put in a big order for other Mexican food treats I don't normally find as well. The package was delivered last week and on the weekend I went into a cooking frenzy, making a big batch of chicken adobado, home made frijoles refritos, rice, and of course, pico de gallo with coconut, papaya, watermelon, cantaloupe (aka rockmelon), and a peach that was just on the verge of becoming overripe.
Traditional pico de gallo also usually involves cucumber and jicama, but I felt like something sweeter and I doubt I could find jicama anywhere in Sydney anyway.
There's also more about pico de gallo on Wikipedia.