Except for those who are exposed to Mexican foods, the product going by the name Salsa may be unfamiliar. Though Salsa can also mean the dance that is typically practiced by Cubans, consumers of food who like the Mexican foods can recognize its virtues. Salsa sauce, as it is known to some people, means a salt based sauce prepared from tomato, spices and hot chilli. For Mexicans, Italians and Spanish, Salsa is a part and parcel of their cuisine while Americans use this preparation mostly as a dip for snacks and an accompaniment in meals.
There are many varieties of Salsa evolved over the years in different countries and these include Salsa roja, S.cruda, S.verde, S.negra, S.lacquera, S.ranchera, S. brava, S.guacamole, S.mole, mango salsa, S. mexicana, S.fresca etc which vary from one another based on preparation mode and ingredients used. Raw materials used can include cooked or uncooked tomato chunks, green pepper, onion, garlic, green chilli, red chilli, cilantro, herbs, oil, vinegar, avocado etc in varying proportions. Salsa can be semi-liquid with chunks of tomato and other vegetables and traditionally pestle and mortar system was being used for getting the consistency but modern day blenders are replacing these manual contraptions.
Jarred, canned and bottled Salsa available in many super markets are manufactured in thermal processing facilities with provision to generate temperatures to 80C sufficient to kill all pathogens and confer good shelf life. Fresh Salsa preparations are also offered in super markets and Delis under refrigerated conditions with limited shelf life. Products made with fresh raw materials without heat treatment can be contaminated with bacteria like E.coli, though high acidity does not allow serious pathogenic infection. Mexican restaurants and fast food chains like Taco Bell have been able to popularize Salsa which is reported to be out selling even the ubiquitous tomato ketchup in the market. With the opening of the first Taco Bell outlet in Bangalore recently, Indians have an opportunity to taste authentic Salsa under desi environment. How far it will click in India remains to be seen.
Looking at the remarkable success of Salsa, one wonders why there is no attempt to popularize our own Indian chutney preparations internationally. Chutney products based on ground coconut do not have adequate keeping quality but with a little effort it should be possible to evolve products that is universally acceptable as an accompaniment or dip for many ready to eat snacks and meals. Probably it is time that a truly enterprising entrepreneur emerges with vision to establish food joints like Taco Bell but with standardized foods of Indian origin amenable to quick preparation and serving in well designed out lets reflecting the ethos represented by this great country.