A Spicy Taste of Puerto Vallarta’s El Arrayán Restaurant: Easy Salsa de Chile de Árbol

by Culinary Spelunker / Jul 26, 2015 /
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Roasted Crispy Cricket Tacos and Plantain Empanadas share the menu with traditional Jalisco favorites like Corn Sopes, Beef Barbacoa, and Cochinita Pibil. Such is the assortment of inventive dishes that have become the trademark of El Arrayán restaurant. At the corner of Calle Allende and Calle Miramar, just a few minutes southeast from the Puerto Vallarta’s famed Malecon, or boardwalk, El Arrayán is named after a tree of the same name whose fruit includes a kick of sourness soothed by traces of sweet. At the restaurant you can drink arrayán aguas frescas or a number of other fresh fruit choices like horcata and Jamaica.

Carmen Porras, who owns El Arrayán with her partner, Claudia Victoria, describes the appeal and inspiration of the arrayanes as stemming from childhood trips to nearby Guadalajara where she first became acquainted with its unique flavor.

A Spicy Taste of Puerto Vallarta’s El Arrayán Restaurant: Easy Salsa de Chile de Árbol

Carmen describes, “I was able to ascertain the differences: arrayanes had smaller stones and their flavor was a little subtler than the tamarind's. The trees are also very different. The arrayán is an uncommon fruit; the size of a glass marble, its scent and delicate flavor are similar to the guava, a cousin of the arrayán and also the ‘tejocote’ (Mexican crab apple). To this day, there has always been a fruit-bearing arrayán tree at my great-grandfather's home in Guadalajara.”

And Carmen has one growing in the restaurant’s courtyard.

A Spicy Taste of Puerto Vallarta’s El Arrayán Restaurant: Easy Salsa de Chile de Árbol

Besides sampling the arrayán juice, visitors to El Arrayán can take their pick of entrees from the menu or choose a cooking class at the restaurant to learn how to make the meal for themselves.

A gracious host, Carmen welcomes guests into her kitchen and keeps an open window so you can peek inside, even when classes aren’t in session. While she teaches how to make more complex meals like Tamales de Pollo con Mole Poblano, one of my favorite recipes is her Salsa de Chile de Árbol con vinagre, a vibrant red-orange sauce that will sting your eyes as you make it and gently burn your throat as you eat it.

A Spicy Taste of Puerto Vallarta’s El Arrayán Restaurant: Easy Salsa de Chile de Árbol

While with many salsa recipes you need to painstakingly remove the seeds inside, with Carmen’s version, you toss the dried chiles whole into a hot pan along with onions and garlic cloves. Finish with a generous splash of vinegar (expect your nose to tickle as the spice infuses the steam). Cook for a few minutes and then whirl the ingredients in a blender for a spicy salsa with a decidedly Mexican sensibility—the spice carries with it a bold flavor that’s at once earthy with undertones to fruitiness.

To capture the essence of El Arrayán at your dinner table, create this salsa at home. Serve with grilled chicken, pork, or fish. Toss with sautéed zucchini slices or just dip with tortilla chips.

A Spicy Taste of Puerto Vallarta’s El Arrayán Restaurant: Easy Salsa de Chile de Árbol

Salsa Chile de Árbol con vinagre

Ingredients
½ large white onion, diced into chunks
3 cloves garlic
5 pieces de Árbol dried chile peppers (or guajillos if you want something milder)
3.5 ounces white vinegar
2 tbsp. canola oil
 
Directions
Bring the oil to medium-high heat in a non-stick skillet.
Add the onions and sauté for 1 minute. Sprinkle with ½ tsp. salt.
Toss in dried chiles (no need to seed them) and garlic. Heat for 3-4 minutes.
Make sure the fan is running before the next step—add the vinegar.
Reduce the heat and cook the chiles until soft.
Place the mixture into a blender and process until smooth. Tweak the consistency by adding more water. And sprinkle in more salt, if needed.
Store in the refrigerator for up to one week. 

 

 

Kristen J. Gough is the Global Cuisines & Kids Editor for Wandering Educators. She shares her family's adventurous food experiences--and recipes--at MyKidsEatSquid.com.

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Kristen J. Gough

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