Pico De Gallo vs. Cachumber: A Difference of 3 Ingredients, 9,100 Miles


Ever since I bought Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking in 2011, I’ve been babbling to whomever would listen (usually no one) about how similar Indian and Mexican cuisines are. Both use large amounts of tomatoes, cilantros, onions, chiles, garlic, and cumin. And yet, the flavors could not be more divergent. It makes sense, really: the countries are 9,100 miles apart. There’s no good reason for them to have any similarities.

A perfect example of how the same ingredients, with just a few tweaks, can yield such massively different flavors is Mexican pico de gallo and Indian cachumber (or kachumber). The former is considered a salsa, the latter a relish. Each have seven ingredients total, but by simply swapping out three simple items, we can go from Mexico to India and vice versa. (Listen, maybe if you were stoned, you’d find this as cool as I do).

After the jump, check out pics of me making both condiments (one from a Jaffrey recipe and one from a Rick Bayless recipe)…

Both condiments start with two tomatoes.

Both recipes also call for roughly chopped cilantro. Bayless requests 1/3 cup; Jaffrey 1/4 cup. I just eyeball the same amount it for both.

Lastly, both condiments require salt and onions. I used a white onion for Jaffrey’s recipe and a green onion for Bayless’s (I had run out of white onion – oops. Don’t worry, green onion is Rick-approved).

Here’s where things diverge. On the left are lime juice, a garlic clove, and a jalapeño to be used in the pico de gallo. On the right are lemon juice, cayenne, and cumin to be used in cachumber. This is not an earth-shattering situation. Very simple stuff here. And yet, a literal world apart in flavor.

For the pico de gallo, I puree the garlic and jalapeño together in the Magic Bullet. I then toss in one of the tomatoes and pulse a few times until it’s roughly chopped.

The result is this mixture, which looks not unlike barf. #realtalk

Get a nice close look!

I then dice up the remaining tomato and drop it in the mixture along with the cilantro, the green onion, the salt and the lime juice (to taste).

The final result is a highly satisfying pico de gallo. There’s no mistaking that this is definitely a Mexican condiment.

As for the cachumber, here are two tomatoes diced and ready for action.

The aforementioned white onion enters the mix.

Finally the cilantro, cumin, cayenne, salt, and lemon juice.

And here is the Indian tomato, onion, and cilantro relish. Not even a hint of Mexican about it. Definitely an Indian concoction.

And this concludes my random post about how to make two vastly different condiments by adjusting three simple ingredients. Never mind that by swapping out the cilantro for basil and the lime juice for vinegar that we’d then have bruschetta!


Now, if only I had some tortilla chips…

2 replies on “Pico De Gallo vs. Cachumber: A Difference of 3 Ingredients, 9,100 Miles”

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