Five Great Salsas in Orange County

Corporate wants us to write arbitrary Top 5 lists--traditionally left for year-end reviews or Best ofs--for SAFII. Instead, we'll do lists of five: no particular order, but all fine representative of their genus. Let's start--surprise, surprise!--with my favorite salsas:

*Habanero salsa at Conde Cakes. They only hand out the salsa in small thimbles, and only if you order the Yucatan snacks like cochinita pibil and kebbe at this Yucatecan bakery. But oh, how it burns: so orange it's almost yellow, with that unique citrus zest that makes habaneros so damn addictive.

*Oil salsa at Taqueria Los Grandes. Faithful commentator frank says Mexican oil-bases salsa--just seeds, water and a bit of oil--is a hallmark of Veracruz cooking, but this longstanding SanTana eatery only serves Mexican-American dishes: enchiladas, tacos, burritos, and the like. But their oil salsa is as gritty as coffee grounds, as sticky as transmission fluid, and fiery like few others. Buy it to go, and watch it last for a month, as just dabbles of the stuff goes a long way.

*Another oil salsa at El Cabrito. Reminiscent of Sichuan-style pepper oil, perfect for the goat served by the pound at this SanTana dive.

*Green salsa at Mariscos La Sirena. Green salsa tends to sacrifice heat for tomatillo flavor, but not the one found at this Mexican seafood palace, where the waitresses' necklines plunge in direct proportion to how high their skirts rise.

*The salsa used in the torta ahogada at Ricas Tortas Ahogadas. To taste what's possibly the spiciest red salsa in Orange County, you'll have to order the torta ahogada, the Guadalajara take on the Mexican hoagie that sees cooks place raw white onions over a hard bolillo then drown it in salsa. Don't let the condiment's thin consistency fool you--it burns!!!


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