Join me on a trip to Oaxaca, a beautiful city in an ancient region of south-central Mexico. A high-altitude city 400 miles east of Acapulco and 320 miles south of Mexico City, it is the capital of the state of Oaxaca and a region of mixed cultures where Zapotecs and Mixtecs mingle with the legacy of Spanish conquistadors.
The Sierra mountain range weaving in and around the region has divided and given birth to a variety of rich cultures, each with a distinctive and delightful cuisine.
Oaxaca is known as the “Land of the Seven Moles” and although there are as many recipes for moles as there are for grandmother’s chicken soup the basic seven moles are negro, coloradito, rojo, amarillo, verde, chichilo and manchamantel. The word mole comes from the Nahuatl word molli, meaning “mixture” and it’s in this mixture that magic happens.
The mole novice may think it is simply chocolate sauce poured over chicken yet it would be a shame if one were never disabused of that notion. And while there may be chocolate in a mole there is so, so much more.
Go to the markets in Oaxaca and look for garlic, onion, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, nuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, cilantro, tomato, tomatillo and dried fruit and you will have a sense of what can go into a mole. A carefully prepared mole may take days to make and the result is a stunning, delicious and beautiful sauce. Mole recipes are handed down from generation to generation and even then there may be a secret ingredient that is never, ever revealed.
The most famous of mole sauces is probably mole negro, or black mole, and it is the one with a hint of chocolate for a dish that is both spicy and sweet. Some chefs spend a lifetime learning how to make the perfect black mole which can have over 25 ingredients.
If you move into the Oaxacan countryside you will find a variety of moles dependent on the abundance of ingredients specific to the area. Some are sweet, some are spicy, some are red, some are green, all are exquisite.
Come to Oaxaca for the mole, see how many you can sample and maybe even test your skills and make one. Conexus International can take you there and show you the wonder of a thousand years of history while you are deciding if negro, rojo or manchmantel is your favorite.