This week we are again visiting the Canary Islands and its typical food. In particular, we want to present some sauces, known in the region as mojos, that you may combine with all kinds of dishes that you can find in our I·ATE food glossary, especially in the mentioned location, with potatoes, cheese, fish, meat, or just bread.
The term mojo is a particular word in Spain, as in the mainland they use salsa instead, while in the Canary Islands we use both. Mojo refers to the typical sauce which is made basically of oil and different spices and herbs. It is assumed that the word mojo is borrowed from the Portuguese term ‘molho’, which actually means ‘sauce’.
There are two main different and recognised sauces in the Canaries: mojo cilantro (‘coriander sauce’) and mojo picón (‘spicy sauce’). The mojo cilantro is made of oil, garlic and coriander or parsley, so sometimes people refer to it as mojo verde (‘green sauce’), as the colour remains the same; the mojo picón, also known as mojo rojo (‘red sauce’), contains oil, garlic, paprika and chilli peppers.
Another popular sauce in the Canary Islands is ‘almogrote’, typically from La Gomera island and made of mature cheese, garlic, tomatoes and oil, and to be eaten especially with potatoes or bread. A very interesting fact about this sauce is that, even if now it is a characteristic food of the Canary Islands, its origins are likely to be in the mainland, where it was very popular during the Middle Ages. This ancient sauce was curiously enough called ‘almodrote’ and, according to the Real Academia Española, was made basically of oil, garlic and cheese, and, as we can deduce from the name, it comes from the Arabic /maṭrūq/, meaning ‘mashed’. Actually, almodrote is mentioned in the renowned Spanish book La vida del Lazarillo de Tormes.
As you can see, those sauces are very easy to prepare. To mash all the ingredients, the only thing you need is a hand mixer, but in order to enjoy a natural flavour, we recommend you to do it manually by using a wooden or pottery almirez or mortero (mortar). You can also use some salt and we encourage you to add some crushed almonds or saffron to mojo cilantro.
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Written by Ana Bennasar
Terminology trainee at TermCoord
– Academia Canaria de la Lengua.
– Blecua, A. (ed.): La vida de Lazarillo de Tormes y de sus fortunas y adversidades. Madrid: 1980, Clásicos Castilia, p. 141.
– La Provincia: ‘El origen del mojo canario’, 2014.
– Tarbutlaspalmas: ‘El almogrote de La Gomera (Islas Canarias)’, 2011.