Uncovering the History of Chamoy

Uncovering the History of Chamoy

Family History 

My cousins and I all look different, and I’ve always wondered why. One Sunday afternoon, my sister, my mom, and I were in the middle of a conversation when my sister mentioned that a guy at work asked for her ethnicity and he was skeptical when she said Mexican. My mom then responded in a mellow tone, “Blame your great-grandmother.” Suddenly, my sister and I looked at my mom confusingly. My sister is tall and slim with dark brown hair and big round eyes. On the other hand, I have light brown hair with fair skin and hazel eyes. No one else in my family has hazel eyes, but we never questioned it due to the fact my family members and I don’t look alike. Eventually my mom told us a story she had heard from my great-grandma about my dad’s family. Both of my parents are from Sonora, Mexico, a small state in Mexico where everyone knows each other and news spreads quickly, especially through the radio. My mom and dad grew up on opposite sides of Sonora. My mom was raised in Caborca, which is a small town, and my dad, however, is from “El Palme” on the beach side of Sonara. My mom told us that when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred in 1941, everyone knew because many Japanese immigrants came to Mexico due to the controversy in the United states. The news was all over the radio. From 1942 to 1945, people of Japanese descent, including U.S. citizens, were removed from their homes and placed in prison camps in Montana, New Mexico, and North Dakota. To avoid being placed in prison camps, many of those Japanese people fled to Mexico on boats. My mom also went on to say that a lot of the refugees who came on boats moved to Sonora and settled there. The news spread fast and everyone was talking about it, including my mom’s grandma. She told my mom all about her friend, who was actually my dad’s grandma. Since most of the Japanese immigrants came to Sonora and settled in cities like El Plame, it has been said that my great-grandma had relations with one of the Japanese immigrants, which explains why many of my relatives have Asian features. Eventually time passed and many of the Japanese immigrants became social outcasts and were living in poverty. To survive, many immigrants started their own business and introduced traditional Japanese dishes to Mexico.

The Creation of Chamoy  

In 1950, Teikichi Iwadrae started his own business. He sold umeboshi, which is a brined ume fruit that is  common in Japan. In English the word umeboshi translates to: salted Japanese plums. In order to add a Mexican touch to the dish, Teikichi added Chabacano, which are dried up apricots, a common fruit snack in Mexico. Teikichi’s creation became known as Chamoy, which means suan mei (sour plum) in Chinese and xí muôi (preserved prune) in Vietnamese. This is where the confusion starts to occur because it’s unknown why a Japanese immigrant would name his product in Chinese or Vietnamese. However, it has been theorized that he could have done it because of the fact that Americans didn’t accept people of any Asian descent, not necessarily just people of  Japanese descent.

Today Chamoy is most known as a Mexican sauce, but at the time it was a candy that looked more like umeboshi. Until 1960 when an Iwadare employee, Valente Gonzalez, got fired from his job, he decided to create his own business called Miguelito. Since he was familiarized with the Iwadare recipe for Chamoy, he created his own powdered version of Chamoy. Soon after that, Chamoy was turned into a variety of sauces: sweet, spicy, and salty. 

Chamoy is a commonly used as a Mexican sauce that is incorporated  into many cuisines and pastries throughout Mexico. The history of its origin is far more interesting than it may seem. There are many different hypotheses on where Chamoy originated from; however, this theory is the most widespread. Chamoy also went on to be made with a variety of different things such as dried chili peppers, sugar, vinegar, and many other preserves. My personal favorite snack is adding Chamoy to my chips with a hint of lemon because it adds extra flavor, but it tastes amazing with practically everything.

The History That Unites Us 

Ultimately, I think it’s crazy that due to my grandma’s ways of life, my family is quite diverse, and thanks to these sequence of events, so are many other Mexican families. It’s inspiring how people embrace their own culture while combining  it with others, and throughout time, it becomes one, leading to a wide range of creations like delicious food and other masterpieces. The history of Chamoy just shows how important it is to embrace your culture no matter how trivial it may seem because it may lead to unexpected events that would be cherished for years to come. It’s also critical to learn about your own culture and others to understand the world and how different groups of people are. At the end of the day we are all connected. Understanding that connection is what unites us. This is why I am very proud of my family history, and I find comfort in the fact that my family is filled with diversity.

Chamoy Treats 

Tostilocos: Tostilocos is a bag of savory chips with cucumber, Japanese peanuts, cueritos (pork rinds), lime juice and hot sauce. Tostilocos are commonly known as Chamoy and Valentina. The antojito was first served in the 1990s by street vendors in Mexico. 

Pepinos Locos: Pepinos Locos are cucumbers cut into fourths with the seeds taken out, and you also have the option to add peanuts or fruits, like mango. It’s best served with tajin, Chamoy, and a hint of lemon juice.



Mexican Candy Apples: Manzana de Chamoy is the Mexican version of caramel apples. They are made with tamarindo, Chamoy, and tajin. They create a paste with these three ingredients and cover the apple. Sometimes the apple is cut into slices and peanuts are added. Mexican candy is often added on the top for some extra flavor.



Mangonadas: Mangonadas are a delicious mango snow cone with Chamoy, tajin, and other hot sauces. It has mango slices and is usually topped off with slices of tamarind bits. There is also a plastic straw with tamarind wrapped around for extra spice.