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A new snack to have with your margarita

We know tequila's type: sour and salty. Such characteristics are what make xoconostle strips the new best friend to all things agave.

The name may be confounding (it's pronounced zoh-koh-noh-stlay), but the in-your-face charms of these dried prickly-pear pieces are unrelenting.

The snacks are made from cactus fruit grown on a ranch in the arid town of Chapantongo in the Mexican state of Hidalgo. There, owners Gabriel Cortés Garcia and Yunuen Carrillo Quiroz harvest the prickly pears, then dehydrate them, salt them and package them under the label Xoxoc.

The result is a sharp, saline snack ($7 for 3.5 ounces) that's not for the faint of mouth. On first bite, the xoconostle strips seem impossibly sour. The second bite sends taste buds into overdrive, but it's hard to resist lunging for more.

Addictive as these are on their own, the strips are even better as an accompaniment to fine tequilas and mezcal.

Mexican food aficionado Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo distributes the xoconostle strips in the States. If you want a milder introduction to the fruit, he has just begun importing a xoconostle paste similar to membrillo (quince paste), plus a sweet fruit leather.

We can't shake the distinctive original, though. Goodbye, salt and lime; hello, xoconostle bites.

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