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Listen to the First-Ever Podcast All About Chamoy, an L.A. Taco Exclusive Premiere of Richard’s Famous Food Podcast

[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]f you live in Los Angeles, you already know chamoy

It’s the blood-red sauce used to season fruit on the street, it’s the flavored powder that comes in the salt-shaker-shaped Lucas candies from the ice cream truck, it’s the rim on your michelada. 

But what exactly is it? Where did it come from? And where will it go next?

This whole thing started when my nephew, who is eight, challenged me to make an episode of Richard’s Famous Food Podcast about hard candy in time for Halloween. My favorite go-to hard candy of the moment being a Locochas chamoy-flavored sucker with a chile center, I knew that whatever I did, I wanted to include Mexican candies. Because they’re delicious! Sour, spicy, savory, and sweet. What’s not to love? They’re a whole category of candies that don’t exist in the U.S. And of course, they don’t get enough attention. You don’t see them in all the Halloween candy power-rankings.

But as I started trying to define chamoy as a candy, I realized it was a whole cultural story unto itself, one I hadn’t ever heard told in its completeness, and definitely not on any podcast I could find. The reason for this episode of Richard’s Famous Food Podcast was born. But the voyage de la chamoy-age had just begun.

The mere thought of chamoy makes one’s mouth water. It’s Mexico’s fruity, sour, salty, savory, spicy flavor combination, most commonly presented in a bright-to-deep red sauce. Some say it’s flavored with apricots, some say plum. But the basic idea is some kind of salt-preserved stone fruit, with acid, and chile. A versatile condiment that can enhance almost anything, from tostilocos to mangoñeadas, chamoy has become a catch-all for the superlative combination of fruity, tangy, and spicy.

But chamoy is as elusive as it is iconic, as I found while researching and reporting this episode of RFFP, my berserk “gastro-comedy” podcast that’s more Pee-Wee’s Playhouse than The Splendid Table. Its meaning is clear, but its definition... far from it. Its origins are distant and uncertain. And its future is anyone's guess. You’re going to hear chamoy’s story—past, present, and future — but you’re also going to hear funny sounds, characters, singing, absurd humor, and surprises. Because that’s the chamoy seasoning I add to my show’s journalistic fruit, which makes it more like a cartoon that you consume through your ears.

Gastronomically and culturally, L.A. is an extension of Mexico. Being a white guy from L.A., my love for Mexico’s food traditions runs deep and it has taken me to some great places, including co-authoring the Guerrilla Tacos cookbook with one of L.A.’s greatest taqueros, Wesley Avila. Chamoy is and forever will fundamentally be a Mexican thing. 

This podcast has the added chorus of Guelatguetza’s Bricia Lopez and Paulina Lopez; L.A. Taco’s Javier Cabral and Gab Chabran; the man, the legend, Machete himself, Danny Trejo, from Trejo’s Tacos, and the movies; Guerrilla Tacos’ chef Wesley Avila and Philip Newman; Jorge “Joy” Alvarez-Tostado from Tacos 1986; and also Andrew Chau, one of the founders of Boba Guys, who speaks to another culture’s relationship with chamoy; Eli Horowitz from Homecoming (the podcast and TV show); various voices from Mercado in Boyle Heights, where I found a “homemade,” paste-like chamoy; and Norma Cervantes, a Mexico City native who runs an excellent fruit cart on 7th Street and Lucas street in downtown LA, where I met Charlie, a.k.a. Chamba, a self-described “regular kid” from South Central who was getting some fruit waiting for his mom, as he does, “all day every day.”

This story starts in Los Angeles but quickly moves to Mexico, then into history, across the world to Japan and China, then back to L.A. to the future, and also to the recent past, when I come to understand my own love of chamoy comes from a similar place everybody else’s does: from my childhood. 

Subscribe to Richard’s Famous Food Podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts, and follow on Twitter and Instagram @richardsfamous.

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