Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Real Chamoy

Every time an unsuspecting tourist lands on this fair island, we take them to eat soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai and then walk them around the tea stores, Chinese pharmacies, and weird foodstuffs purveyors of the cabinet of wonders that is Chinatown.
I like to go into candy store Aji Ichiban because they have free samples of candied and preserved fruits, which I gobble right after I've had a sumptuous Chinese meal and my gut is about to explode, like that guy's in The Meaning of Life.
So I'm there, speaking in Spanish, explaining that in Mexico we have something similar called chamoy, and the employees brighten up at the name and point me to two samples of preserved plums: the real Chinese chamoy, one version sweet, and the other sweet and salty.

Original Chinese Chamoy
I was ecstatic to confirm that indeed, there is something in China called chamoy and some enterprising Chinese person must have decided that Mexicans had to have it too. Another theory could be that Mexican tourists came by Aji Ichiban, screamed chamoy, and the employees just decided to go along. I subscribe to the first theory because I was told by the employees at Aji Ichiban that the word chamoy only describes preserved plums and no other fruit. They sounded authoritative. 
Now, I love Mexican chamoy faithfully, as any true Mexican should, but I have to say that our version is chazerai* compared to the Chinese one. I'm not talking about powdered Chamoy, which I think would make Chairman Mao spin in his grave, and which Mexicans are starting to put on everything, but about the dried plums. In Mexico, the dried plums are super salty and tart, and they are actually apricots. There are red apricots in red brine that make your soul pucker, and give you instant high blood pressure, they are so salty and acid. Mexicans add chili powder to chamoy, making it sweet, salty, acid and spicy. We all know it's the best kind of junk candy there is.

Mexican powdered Chamoy, now in several artificial flavors.
Mexicans love chamoy, although our chamoy is as authentic as our Philadelphia sushi rolls with lox and cream cheese. In fact, chamoy has kind of had a renaissance, as there are chamoy stores at malls where you can have a chamoyada (shaved fruit flavored ice with chamoy), or chamoy covered popsicles, or bars where martinis, micheladas or margaritas are garnished with chamoy. The original brand was always Miguelito but now everybody and their mother has a version of chamoy. Chamoy has exploded. On Google I found images of something called a Rosca de Chamoy, like a chamoy Bundt cake. I can't even fathom what it's made with.

Google image search of chamoy.

Alas, I could not find a picture of the preserved fruit chamoys. I'm afraid they may have disappeared from the Mexican candy repertoire, which would be tragic.
The Japanese have a version of preserved plum paste called umeboshi, which is supposed to be a digestive. I love it too.
And because it is supposed to be a digestive I just gobbled an entire bag of the two Chinese chamoys as I wrote this post.

*horrible junk.


  1. I agree. The chamoy with the red brine is gross. I too have heard of the rosca de chamoy but have no idea what they are talking about. You missed a picture of the chamochelas - I wonder how the Chinese would feel about those? They are delicious!

  2. Hold on a sec, Super Babe! I like the evil chamoy in red brine, but you had to be there in childhood. What in God's name is a chamochela?
    Greetings from NYC!

  3. Anonymous6:38 PM

    My all-time favorite Mexican candy was (sadly--was) a flat paleta with a salted plum in the center and hard tamarindo candy looped in a double ring around it. A lick of that and heaven sang. It's been 20 years since I've seen one. *sigh*

  4. Mexico: What was the name of that thing? Never came across it but it sounds like a Chamoyish diabolical invention. Consider yourself lucky to have tasted it.

  5. Anonymous7:02 PM

    I unfortunately don't remember the name of that paleta, I last bought one a long time ago. But oh, it was divine, even more divine than the plastic spoon filled with cajeta that I also often bought in those way-back long-ago days.