Stories about the origin of foods are fascinating, and since today’s delicious topic is Mexican Mole (mo-lay), I was thoroughly entertained to be reminded of how it was born!
Legend has it that in the 18th century, convent nuns were to prepare a special dish for the archbishop. In a panic because they were poor and did not have impressive ingredients on hand, they did what cooks in a dilemma are wise to do ~ they prayed. Then they combined what they did have available, which included chili peppers, spices, old bread, seeds, nuts, some fruit, and a little chocolate. They cooked an old turkey that they slaughtered themselves, and ladled the sauce on top, to serve their very important guest. The archbishop loved it.
We know mole today as a very complicated blend of ingredients ~ often up to 30 or 40 items ~ that usually yield a dark brown, very rich, and off-the-charts-delicious dish, usually served with chicken. Since mole is a regional dish, cooks in Mexico prepare it with a diverse range of ingredients which also can yield sauces in a variety of colors.
The best-known mole is said to be from either Puebla and Oaxaca, which coincidentally happen to be the birthplaces of Don Manuel Behar (founder of LaGloria Foods; on our LA Latin Spice Tour) and Esteban Ramos, owner of Tortas Mexico (on our Old Pasadena Tour), respectively.
The title photo was taken at LaGloria Foods on one of our LA Latin Spice Tours earlier this year. A restaurant had brought in its fresh raw ingredients, which require an industrial-strength grinder to blend them into the base for their mole sauce. Included were varieties of chilies, nuts and seeds, plantains, spices, garlic, onion, cocoa powder, and about 35 other quintessential foods. It was a unique experience to witness!
For me personally, I love going out to enjoy mole, and LaSerenata Garibaldi in Boyle Heights and Tortas Mexico in Old Pasadena are sure bets if you prefer to do the same! If you are inclined to make mole at home and want to jump-start your own delicious sauce, consider a shop through El Mercado in East LA, where you are certain to find more than one artisan selling many colors of freshly-made mole sauce bases.
If you would like to explore East LA with us to experience where to shop and eat, may I gently recommend our incredibly delicious and extremely fun LA Latin Spice Tour?!
And finally, here is the very good news about making an easy mole at home, that you and yours will positively love. My lovely friend Maria Zebrowski, author of the highly-recommended No-Brainer Cookbook: Surviving the Arsenic Hour, offers a brilliant recipe for Simplified Chicken Mole, that I am delighted to share with you! For more from Maria and to inquire about her cookbook, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s the recipe, enjoy!
Until next time, I remain ~
Your Chef and Tour Maestra,