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I assayed an attempt at hot sauce the other day by cooking 3 pounds of peppers (jalapeno and hungarian wax) in olive oil and balsamic vinegar for about three hours, then throwing them in a blender. The result is thick in consistency and tastes like very mild balsamic vinegar with added heat (as you might expect). It's not super hot, and the bitter "cooked-pepper" taste has all but vanished.

The original plan was to use it for tacos, but now that I've finished, the flavor just doesn't seem appropriate for use in Mexican food.

What are the flavor bases of Mexican/Tex-Mex cuisine, and why do they seem so dissonant when paired with balsamic vinegar?

As a follow-up, are there such things as known consonant flavor-pairs (bell peppers and onions?), and if so, does balsamic vinegar have any?

For reference, when I say "known", I mean widely accepted and agreed upon among the professional (or at least experienced) cooking community.

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Updated in an attempt to make it less subjective. –  DruidGreeneyes Sep 19 '13 at 22:06
    
The follow-up has already been asked and answered. –  Peter Taylor Sep 20 '13 at 8:18
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Hello DruidGreeneys, and welcome to Seasoned advice! We appreciate very much that you took the time to correct your question according to our guidelines. So I am reopening it now. I also edited your title to make it more clear that you have focused the question to be less broad. –  rumtscho Sep 20 '13 at 11:21
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1 Answer

This is the same question, in essence as why any of these combinations are dissonant or unexpected:

  • Marina sauce on soba noodles
  • Cheese on Chinese stir fry
  • Haggis jambalaya

Every cuisine is a part of a culture, and there are cultural expectations for what is normal or not normal.


A deeper question would be how and why such cultural expectations develop.

Note that this is a speculation, but an informed anthropological speculation:

Every cuisine is associated with a geographic region, where certain agricultural products are prominent. The people in the area, quite naturally, learned to cook with the resources they had available. So it would be odd for a mountainous culture like Tibetans to have seafood dishes, just as it would be odd for the inhabitants of modern day Shanghai to have Yakk milk dishes.

Over time, the culture adapts and finds flavor combinations and techniques that are applicable to its resources (stir frying in china, for minimal fuel use, for example). These traditions form the backbone of the cuisine, and are how we recognize what is or is not part of that cuisine.


This allows us to make an educated guess as to why balsamic vingegar seems odd in Mexican food.

Mexico has not historically been a land of the grape, so they do not have a wine making or vinegar making tradition. Therefore, a product like balsamic vinegar is not a part of their tradition.

Balsamic is also well identified with the part of Italy now called Modena, where it would have evolved because grapes were available, and there was a wine making industry already.

Putting the two together confounds cultural expectations.

Nonetheless, there are many chef's who enjoy and practice combining foods and technique across cultural and cuisine boundaries, and thus we have the modern practice of fusion cuisine.

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