Mole The Most Delicious Reason to Travel in Mexico!
Our friends just returned from their vacation in Mexico raving about a savory dish they discovered in Oaxaca called 'mole'. What exactly is mole?
As far as we at Baja Bound.Com are concerned, mole is the sexiest food in Mexico! This spicy, gorgeous sauce can be prepared a thousand different ways ~ and has a rich cultural history.
The word "mulli" or "molli" comes from the ancient Aztec language Nahuatl. Loosely defined, it means "sauce," "stew," or "concoction." Like all great chefs, the Aztecs learned early that necessity is the source of invention! By combining unusual mixes of ingredients, they were able to create a multitude of delectable sauces.
In modern-day Mexico, unique and distinctive mole sauces are made in every region, town; and family! The sauces are created by using different amounts of chiles, seeds, fruits, nuts, spices, and chocolate - among other tasty additions! Some recipes call for garlic and onions, others for tomatillos or lard; but in our book, all of them are absolutely divine.
Who invented mole?
As with most important discoveries, many people would love to take the credit for inventing mole! There are a wide variety of stories which tell how these sauces were first created, but in our opinion, the truth likely rests with time and experimentation. As any dedicated cook will tell you, some of the most exquisite meals come from throwing together a wild mix of leftovers.
However, for traditionalists, here is our favorite of the many stories in circulation about the invention of mole:
In the early 17th Century, a Dominican nun named Sor Andrea de la Asuncion lived in a convent in Puebla de los Angeles, outside of Mexico City. The mother superior of her order asked her to create a special meal to honor and celebrate visiting dignitaries who would be arriving on a Sunday.
Since this request came at the last moment, Sor Andrea had to make do with the ingredients that she already had in the convent kitchen. Wisely, she enlisted the help of the native women who worked with her to invent something wonderful, using the tools at hand. These native women, descended from Aztecs, believed that chocolate was the perfect ingredient to add to a dish created for visiting noblemen ~ because in Aztec culture, only royal males were allowed to eat chocolate.
Together, Sor Andrea and her ladies decided to add chocolate to a more traditional blend of chilis, herbs, seeds and vegetables. This unusual merging of Old World and New World ingredients resulted in an earthy, rich, delectable mix of flavors.
How is mole served today?
If you travel to one hundred different homes in Mexico, you will find one hundred different ways of preparing and serving mole! However, there are some distinctive trends. Many good cooks believe that it is better to make the mole sauce ("salsa") ahead of time, and then serve it over meat (usually turkey or chicken) that is boiled or roasted on the day of your festivity.
The ideal consistency of a mole sauce should be smooth and thick, with no noticeable chunks - yet not so finely ground that it becomes soupy. Although mole has traditionally been made with a significant amount of lard, health conscious diners can find a variety of delicious recipes that call for dry-roasting (rather than deep-frying) the ingredients.
Today, mole is most often served on top of chicken with Spanish rice, potatoes, or cheese enchiladas. Traditionalists continue to serve mole over turkey ("guajalote"), a native bird of Mexico. However, many adventurous cooks also serve it over seafood, pork, or roasted vegetables. We eager eaters at Baja Bound.Com think that mole is delicious on just about everything!!!
Where is the best place to try mole in Mexico?
You can find amazing mole all over Mexico, since just about every cook makes it differently by adding their own unique "secret" ingredients. Puebla, the region two hours south of Mexico City, is famous for being the birthplace of mole ~ and is known for the authenticity of its slightly sweet mole poblano. However, at this time, Oaxaca is perhaps more famous for its seven moles (often called the Seven Sisters!) which include amarillo (yellow), verde (green), negro (black), and colorado (brick-red).
The most famous mole from Oaxaca, mole negro, boasts chocolate, spices, almonds, raisins, pumpkin seeds, garlic, plantains, seeds, lard, and no less than six types of chiles in its sumptuous blend. According to this AZ Central article, another great Oaxacan mole is made with cinnamon, oregano, garlic, ancho chiles and chicken.
The famous mole verde of Veracruz is made with green chiles, fresh herbs and tomatillos, while Guerrero boasts another version of mole verde ~ made with ground pumpkin seeds. In Guadalajara and Mexico City, you can find manchamanteles de cerdo y pollo (a red mole with meat, fowl and fruit).
No matter where in Mexico you go, you will undoubtedly be surprised and delighted by the variety of flavors and special recipes for mole that you encounter; and the wonderful stories behind each one!
I love mole, but don't really like to cook. Can I buy mole pre-made in Mexico?
Sure! Creating mole from scratch is a beautiful and time-honored process, but grinding, mixing and blending up to 30 ingredients by hand (or Cuisinart!) takes a lot of time! If you'd like to enjoy the exotic delights of mole without any stress or muscle strain, consider purchasing some to go!
You can buy ready-made mole in paste, cube or powdered form at small local mercados throughout Mexico and even in large supermarket chains such as Walmart and Gigante! Depending on the type of ingredients that were used to make it, the mole you purchase may vary in color (especially if you buy it from a local source). You can also buy mass-produced mole paste in American supermarkets such as Whole Foods Market.
I'd like to do more research about mole. Any recommendations for where to start?
You can find many delicious recipes for authentic Mexican moles, plus detailed information about their history, by checking out the sites listed below in our blog sources!
Splendid Table ~ Public Radio.Org
Gates Of The Mountains ~ Blogs.Com