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Local Flavor

54 house hot salsas

After our experience at Pepe & Chela’s, the quest for house hots continued, and it turns out that Topeka restaurants cook up specials from brothy green salsas to pure buzzed jalapeno to near moles (the rich chocolate chile sauce favored for chicken and turkey). We always had to request the house hot. The sixth-grader noted that the hotter salsa often came in a smaller bowl than the regular salsa. This reflects the chiles themselves: the smaller, the hotter, because the smaller peppers have the greatest proportion of membrane and seeds compared with their flesh. And, of course, people

tend to put less of the hot salsa on the chips or the food. At Quetzal, though, which serves breakfast on Saturday and Sunday, our server told us people are asking for the house hot to use on their biscuits and gravy instead of the traditional Tabasco. And at places like La Fiesta, the quantity of house hot consumed outpaces the mild. So when you eat Mexican food in Topeka, begin by asking for a hot salsa to go with the mild one. Dip a chip and let the salsa run off. See if you can take the heat. If so, don’t dip: Scoop! Order plenty of water, preferably with lemons, as the acid from the lemon will cut the oil of the capsaicin.

Margaritas will do the same, though alcohol, according to Miller, increases the absorption of the oil and makes the food seem even hotter. Eat beyond the initial sensation of heat, until you reach the taste of the salsa. Soon, your eyebrows will sweat, your nose will run. “Your lips burn, too,” says the sixth-grader. If you are in the presence of true heat, I tell him, your head might lift a bit. But that’s part of the enjoyment of the house hot: taste and texture, heat and health. Here’s to yours.

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Casa Ramos

La Fiesta

Quetzal

837 SW Fairlawn Road

1017 NE Seward Ave.

222 NW Independence Ave.

A salsa verde, buzzed tomatilloes and a little onion, but with the definite sweet and searing heat of the hottest of the hot peppers, the habanero. A real eyebrow raiser.

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TOPEKAMAGAZINE Spring 2009

Along with the mild sauce, La Fiesta makes up to 10 house hots, usually two per day. The sixth-grader and I had a green and a red. The green was tomatillo, cilantro, onion and roasted jalapeno, very fresh. The red was almost pure roasted chile arbol, and had what the sixth-grader called a “mega-hot slow burn.” If you like really hot salsa, you can only hope to visit La Fiesta on the day the cooks make their roasted habanero house hot.

Along with a mild salsa of chunky red tomatoes, onions, cilantro and a little jalapeno, the thick, house hot is rich and complex. Roasted red bell peppers provide a base for an earthy blend of roasted jalapeno and arbol (and perhaps others—the salsa is a secret) with a hint of garlic and cumin. This pasty salsa sticks to the warm chips and gives the sensation, according to the boy, of a “slow speed, delayed burn.”

Topeka Magazine Spring 2009  

Topeka Magazine Spring 2009