Having spent 16 years in Texas, chips and salsa are to us what french fries and ketchup are to most people. When we moved to China, we craved the crunchy, salty chips, smothered in the tangy zip of salsa, but could only find pale, stale imitations for exorbitant rates at the foreign food store. For years, we had no way to solve this fiesta fiasco…until we moved to the Muslim section of town and discovered flat breads. Eureka! These large, thin disks aren’t exactly tortillas, but they definitely served our purpose.
For those of you who don’t live in a developing country and can easily buy bags of chips whenever the mood strikes, feel free to scroll down to the salsa part of the post. For my fellow expatriates, I hope you find the secret to delicious tortilla chips as exciting as we did!
Start with large Muslim flat breads (or tortillas if you can get them, or Indian naan if that’s the part of the world you live in).
Cut into strips…
…and then cut those strips into triangles…
…until you have a whole bowlful prepared.
Set up your work station, with a wok full of oil (or a frying pan…but I’m doing it China style) and a platter lined with paper towels next to it.
When the oil is sufficiently hot (I test it by dropping in a chip and seeing if it sizzles vigorously), take a handful of chips and carefully drop them into the oil.
Don’t worry if your hands aren’t as large as mine; you can just drop in two handfuls.
Stir the chips so that they brown evenly. See my handy super-sized chopsticks? They’re one of my favorite kitchen tools, especially when deep-frying.
Remove from oil (it should only take about a minute to a minute and a half per batch), drain and lightly salt.
If you’re looking for a more health-conscious method for making these chips, you can lightly coat the raw chips in olive oil and bake in the oven a few minutes until crisp. Mom did that, and she said they were almost as tasty as the deep fried chips.
Now for the other half of this dynamic duo!
First, assemble whole, peeled tomatoes; onion; bell pepper; a garlic clove; cilantro; lemon juice; and salt.
Dump one can of whole, peeled tomatoes into the blender. Probably you’re thinking that fresh tomatoes would be preferable, but we’ve tried it both ways and think the canned are better in this recipe (shocking, I know). They’re also expedient, as you don’t have to peel or chop the tomatoes.
Peel and smash a clove of garlic. Be sure that your cutting board is thoroughly disreputable, just like ours.
Roughly chop half a bell pepper…
…half a small onion or one fourth of a large one…
…and a bunch of cilantro.
Dump all of these into the blender, along with several healthy dashes of lemon juice (you can use fresh squeezed, if you have it, or lime juice is also good)…
If you have a jalapeno, now would be a good time to add that. We can’t get those here, and the Chinese hot peppers just don’t taste right, so we go without the heat. Blend for a few seconds, until salsa looks like this-
Now add one final can of tomatoes…
..and pulse very quickly, leaving it slightly chunky. Our blender is turbo-powered, so my salsa didn’t have very many chunks in it. That’s okay, it was still good!
As you can see, it makes quite a lot, so feel free to cut the recipe in half unless you have a large family or want to munch on it for several days.
Chips and salsa- the perfect pairing! It almost made me want to burst into Spanish, but after ten years in China “Mama, where are my pajamas?” and “The fat man is eating the bread” is about all I remember, so I will refrain.
Mmmmm, this makes me one happy senorita!
Two cans of whole, peeled tomatoes
Half a bell pepper
Half a small onion or a quarter of a large onion
One clove of garlic
One bunch cilantro
One jalapeno (if desired)
Throw one can of tomatoes into a blender. Roughly chop the bell pepper, onion, garlic, cilantro and jalapeno. Add several generous dashes of lemon juice (depending on how acidic you like it; I like mine pretty lemony) and salt to taste. Blend for several seconds. Throw in final can of tomatoes and quickly pulse, leaving slightly chunky.
This recipe is very forgiving; in fact, I almost hesitate to call it a recipe, because I never measure. If you like your salsa a little sweeter, you could throw in some mango or peach. If you like it chunkier, pulse in the blender for a briefer time.
Should keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
P.S. Many thanks to my friend, Rachel, for making this treat possible. We no longer live in the Muslim section of town, and have been unable to find these breads anywhere. She made a special stop in our old neighborhood to pick these up for us, knowing how much I had been craving chips and salsa. Is she a great friend, or what?