I can still see my abuela, Meyita with all women in the family, happily chatting, while roasting, grinding and preparing everything to cook…happiest times of my life!!
When asked about the most representative Mexican dish, undoubtedly, I always think of mole.
The origin of the word is Náhuatl “molli” or “mulli” and means “salsa”. In pre-Hispanic times, it was a salsa made with different kinds of chiles, cacao and corn. This dish was named “chilmolli”. It was a salsa to eat with tortillas, with huaxolotl (turkey) on the side.
Mole is a must in big celebrations: weddings, baptisms, birthdays and even Christmas. “ir a un mole” (go to have mole) usually means we are going to a wedding. Although mole is very popular all over Mexico, it is more so in the center and south, especially Puebla and Oaxaca. In the north of Mexico, moles are simpler, especially for preparing enchiladas.
All moles from the different regions use one or more kinds of dry chiles: ancho, pasilla, mulato, chipotle, and spices, as well as garlic, dry fruits, etc. There are five categories of ingredients that should be present every time:
Dry chiles (ancho, guajillo, pasilla, chipotle)
Tomatoes or green tomatoes (tomatillos)
Sweet ingredients (chocolate, dry fruits)
Spices (clove, pepper, allspice)
Thickeners (tortilla, bread)
In a mole, there should be a balance between dry chiles and chocolate so that one flavor doesn’t dominate; chocolate is used to balance the spiciness of the dry chiles.
In general, all ingredients are toasted and grinded, ideally in a metate, (a big volcanic stone mortar) until we have a fine paste. This paste is mixed with water or broth and thickened by stirring slowly for a long time.
The use of salsas is an ancient Mesoamerican practice. It doesn´t however seem that chocolate was included in their preparation, because cacao had a ritualistic significance, and wasn´t used as a condiment.
We can say mole is the perfect bond between both worlds: the traditional Mesoamerica ingredients and new flavors brought by Europeans creating the most representative of all Mexican dishes: mouthwatering mole.