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I recently ate at a Mexican restaurant with a delicious sauce. They were willing to sell it to me if I put in a special order, but they insisted it was so easy to make that I should just make it myself instead. I know the ingredients are jalapenos, habaneros, onions, and garlic. There is no water or anything else, just those four ingredients. The end result is a yellowish green sauce with a smooth, almost paste consistency.

I think I can figure out cooking the ingredients and blending them together, but how do I even take a guess at the ratios? None of the flavors were overpowering (it didn't taste mostly like onions or jalapenos or garlic), so there's not an obvious base, but I doubt they're anywhere close to equal proportions either. I don't need the results to be an exact match, but I'd like it to at least resemble what I had in the restaurant.

What's the best approach to this?

  • I'm not very familiar with the tags on this site and it's very hard to browse them on the mobile app, so feel free to edit them as appropriate. – Kat Jan 3 at 21:34
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First, ask if they cook any of the ingredients.

It's likely that they are all raw.

Next, I would probably start with a mix with an approximate base that has the same color as the original sauce ( e.g. 1:1:1 with one clove of garlic).

Save some of it on the side to use again, then add some of each ingredient to your base. 2:1:1:1 / 1:2:1:1 / 1:1:2:1 etc.

Then taste each one, and that should give you some idea of how to tweak it next.

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    Likely the habañeros will overpower the rest at that ratio. I guess it'll really rely on how got they are, the OP's spicy tolerance, and how hot the original mixture way. Also how long ago it was prepared might affect things (on the spot vs the night before). – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Jan 3 at 23:58
  • Yeah, I would be surprised if the habaneros, by mass, were more than 5% of the sauce. – Sneftel Jan 4 at 10:52
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    @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas, "habañeros" is a Hyperforeignism - Wikipedia. It is correctly spelled "Habaneros", with a regular "n". Many people make the same mistake with "empanadas" too. – Ray Butterworth Jan 4 at 17:15
  • @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas It was on the spicy side and I could definitely taste the flavor of the habaneros, but I agree it's probably not 1:1 with the jalapenos. I like this general idea though. – Kat Jan 4 at 18:07
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    @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas, The mispronunciations are contagious and tend to be regional, so where you live many people might say one of them right and one of them wrong. But with either word, in actual Spanish the correct pronunciation and spelling is with "n", not "ñ". – Ray Butterworth Jan 4 at 23:33
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None of the flavors were overpowering (it didn't taste mostly like onions or jalapenos or garlic)

That statement provides the key you can work with:

  • prepare a bowl of each ingredient.
  • make a reasonable guess as to the proportions and mix a sample from a small amount of each.
  • taste the sample:
    • if one ingredient is very overpowering, discard the sample and start again with much less of that ingredient.
    • if one ingredient is slightly overpowering, add more of the others.
    • if one ingredient tastes missing (an amazing skill to acquire if one can), add more of it.

Keep repeating this until you can taste all ingredients and none of them are overpowering, and you should be close to your ideal.

Since some of the ingredients are quite strong, be sure to occasionally clear your palate with a drink and bland crackers.

Once you've perfected it, do it once more, but this time carefully measuring the ingredients, and there's your recipe.

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  • Garlic and onion benefit from some time in the cut up state. It mellows them, especially if sauce contains vinegar. You might want to chop up, add vinegar as needed, wait an hour, and then follow Butterworth's advice. The sauce you like is almost surely a couple hours down the road from fresh chopped. – Wayfaring Stranger Jan 4 at 16:52
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    @WayfaringStranger they explicitly said not to add any water or anything else but those four ingredients, so I assume that includes vinegar. I'll try letting them sit after chopping if they're too strong otherwise. – Kat Jan 4 at 18:01
  • Ok then, Kat. No vinegar. That's odd though. Chop, let stuff sit, then proceed then. Garlic is particularly time sensitive. – Wayfaring Stranger Jan 4 at 19:30

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