The Mexican spice that bangs
WORDS BY : KATE GILBERT | ILLUSTRATION BY : AMBER VITTORIA
More Tajin Please!
Ever wondered what that red spice is at the fruit carts downtown? You peek through the glass, as the person working slices those mangoes and melons wicked fast, dusting the top with that mysterious powder so quickly that you just can’t seem to read the label. It’s one of those situations where you’re content not knowing what’s in your food, because you suspect that when you find out, that perfect confluence of salty + sweet + spicy flavors might be ruined by the voice of wellness at the back of your head. Lucky for us though, Tajín is quite simple, a mere combination of red chillies, sea salt, and dehydrated lime juice… and a bit of anti-caking agent to keep an even sprinkle. After your first taste, you won’t be able to get enough of it.
We tend to devote time to perfecting our vegetables. Spinning our salad greens dry, tossing with salt to bring out their delicate flavor, and dressing with a combination of acid and oil. Fruit, on the other hand, is often neglected. Some may argue that the perfect piece of fruit is best eaten alone, and that’s why Alice Waters could get away with serving a bowl of peaches for $10 at Chez Panisse. Those peaches may be perfect, but that’s an awfully boring desert. So, why not up your fruit game? Tajín will revolutionize your afternoon fruit snack.
This delightful condiment hails from Zapopan, a city in Mexico’s central state of Jalisco, and is pervasive throughout the country. The company’s story is sweet, its signature recipe inspired by the founder’s desire to recreate his grandmother’s special chili sauce. His obsession with her sauce led to him to experiment with lime and chili dehydration. Ultimately, he produced a powdered rendition that captured her sauce’s flavor, but also adds a new component: a crunchy texture. Most importantly, he made the taste of his grandmother’s sauce accessible, as it could be easily preserved and transported, convenient for us.
The flavor that Tajín produces in your mouth is invigorating. A surge of tanginess and a gentle heat coats your tongue, only to disappear moments later, leaving hardly a trace of spice, merely a lingering saltiness. For a moment, you’ll wonder if you even tasted it at all, only to go back for more and recreate that electric flavor. Tajín is delicious for a reason. Especially when sprinkled on top of something sweet, it gets at taste receptors throughout your mouth, activating those that are triggered by sweetness, sourness, and saltiness, while also inducing the sensation of heat that is produced by spice. Dynamic yet obvious, it is so simple to incorporate into your culinary repertoire, yet will never fail to surprise.
Tips n' Tricks
Originally, Tajín was intended for corn on the cob. An elote, which is commonly prepared as street food in Mexico is a delightful combination of salt, chile, butter, cotija, mayo and lime smothered atop freshly cooked corn. Tajín can be used in place of chile, lime and salt, resulting in an equally delicious dish. In a Los Angeles kitchen, though, it’s more likely that you’ll see it sprinkled on avocado toast. Tajín is great on tropical fruit, but is also delicious on jicama and cucumbers. It makes a fantastic margarita rim, and the brand has manufactured a rimmer that’s perfect for your next party. Or, for a mellower beverage, try it with a Michelada.
If you’re craving a salty snack, then pop some popcorn and sprinkle coarse sea salt and Tajín on top. For a hearty side dish, cube a few sweet potatoes, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Then, roast at 425° for 30 minutes, or until they are tender. Take the sweet potatoes out of the oven and toss with Tajín, a squeeze of lime, and sprigs of fresh cilantro. Exchange cauliflower for sweet potatoes if you’re wanting something a little lighter. For a restoring treat, make a mango lassi in your blender with frozen mango, yogurt, a touch of honey, and the milk of your choice. Sprinkle in some Tajín before blending, and line the rim of your glass with extra Tajín and lime.
Tajín makes even the greenest fruit taste… decent. Pick up a bottle at your local grocery store — any big chain should carry it. Not in the mood to run to the supermarket this very moment, but craving that quintessential Tajín flavor? Make your own version of this holy trinity. Just sprinkle some of your favorite chili powder, salt, and fresh lime juice on the fruit plate you’re about to eat. Can’t promise you’ll experience that same zing, but those flavors will certainly be delicious and refreshing.