Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mole - One of my Favourite Foods

Mole (Poblano) over Chicken with Sesame Seeds
One of my favourite foods in Mexico and beyond is mole (pronounced "molay").  Mole is a type of rich, spicy sauce, most often served hot over chicken.  In its normal form, it is a dark brown sauce with a spicy flavour (it has a number of different kinds of hot peppers in it).

Most people buy mole either in a paste form, or in a powder form.  In central Mexico, you can buy both forms of mole in bulk in large markets.  In all areas, supermarkets and little convenience stores sell paste mole in little jars, or ready to serve in tetra packs (you just have to heat it up.)  A very popular supermarket brand is Doña Maria, which I believe is sold in cities the U.S. and Canada as well.  It's good, but it doesn't compare to what you can get in the markets.

From either paste or powder form, it is mixed with hot chicken broth , to the desired texture, and brought to a boil.  After being served over a chicken leg, either sesame seeds or thick cream (similar to sour cream) with onions are served on top.

Another way of serving mole is in enmoladas, which are like enchiladas, but with mole instead of green or red tomato sauce.  These usually have chicken wrapped in the tortillas, and cream with onions on top, often with cheese as well.

Both kinds of mole dishes are very common in all kinds of restaurants, whether they're suburban style chains, or the inexpensive little restaurants that sell meals to go for about $3.

In villages, mole is also made from scratch.  I've seen this being done once.  Although I don't know all the ingredients, and I'm sure the recipe varies from region to region, the ingredients I know of are:

Enmoladas with 3 different kinds of sauce (the onions are usually chopped)
  • oil or lard
  • bread or cracker crumbs
  • hot peppers
  • sesame
  • sugar
  • peanuts
  • salt
  • cocao/chocolate
  • spices like pepper and clove
The pastes and powders they sell already include all of these, ground up and blended.  Women in villages use their stone grinding board to make the paste.  One of my favorite moles is made by my wife's great aunt in her grandpa's village; it's dark and spicy, and not sweet at all.  It's served over tamales with beans.

I know some people who go into the markets, where there are maybe 20 varieties mole for sale - some sweater, some spicier, some more bitter -  and try a number of them (the vendors give small samples,) blending different types to get the exact flavor they want. Those who prefer it sweeter will add an extra bar of chocolate or two when preparing it at home.  When I lived near the market in Cuernavaca, I used to do this (except for the blending part - I never developed my mole skills that far.)

Mole in a market - you can see brown, red, orange and green mole
As mentioned above, the most common form is dark brown, but I have also seen green, light brown, red, orange, and black.  Each one, I believe, is based on a different kind of pepper, and has slightly different ingredients; for example, from what I understand, green mole includes pumpkin seeds.

One variety which seems to be a favorite is "mole Poblano" which comes from the city of Puebla, about 2 hours east of Mexico City.  It's very dark (almost black) and very sweet.  There are a few restaurants in the historic downtown of Puebla which are the classics for this kind of mole. (The picture at the top is of mole Poblano.)

For all non-Mexicans, I really suggest trying mole.  It has a very strong, spicy flavor; if you don't like it the first time, try another kind. 
Personally, I've loved every kind I've tried.  I've only had mole once I didn't like much, but that's one out of hundreds of times.  In fact, my wife, who is 100% Mexican, born and raised in the rougher parts of Mexico City, complains that I "make her" eat mole too often.  I always just reply that someday she'll be as Mexican as I am, and appreciate eating mole as much as I do.

1 comment:

  1. Oh this one was cruel to read. I miss Mole. I know how to cook black Mole but rarely cook it. I miss Mexican Cuisine, REAL Mexican Cusine and not "made from where the restaurant is" Mexican cusine :(.

    Enjoy for me please! I love mole ...

    I'm getting Nostalgic!.

    ( CONGRATS for your baby!)