We proudly present your majesty… the Mole Poblano!

Why is Mole Poblano the icon of Mexican cuisine?

Authentic Mole Poblano
“Mole Poblano”

Mulli, the Aztec word for mole means mix or sauce. An exquisite delicacy from the colonial city of Puebla, México. If I close my eyes I can remember that aroma of my grandmother’s kitchen – I see her mixing the chocolate with the mulato, pasilla and ancho chile mixture in a massive clay pot. This sauce was combined with a very unique paste that she made from scratch – pieces of bread, corn tortilla, tomatoes, garlic, onion, anise, cinnamon, black pepper, roasted nuts and other ingredients.

It is believed that this unique dish takes days to be prepared. The truth is that even it is a complex dish, in a few hours you are able to make an authentic Mole Poblano from scratch. There are cooking classes available that teach you how to make an exquisite home-made Mole Poblano in less than four hours.

~ Mulli  or Mole is a fragrant and legendary dish with more than twenty ingredients ~

Our grandmas used to take several hours or even days to prepare mole. Nowadays with technology and short-cuts you can have a mole from scratch in about 3.5 hours (chicken broth time not included).

Origin of the Mole Poblano

Chicken in Mole Negro
Chicken in Mole Poblano

There are many versions of the history of mole. Based on facts, Mole had its origin in pre-hispanic Mexico, when it was called mulli and was made with turkey and served in Aztec rituals and other festive occasions. One of the most treasured ingredients used in the mole is xocolatl – Aztec word for chocolate. The arrival of Europeans brought many new spices and ingredients that have been incorporated into the dish, modifying its flavor.

Other legends talk about the Santa Rosa convent in Puebla, where the nuns created this exquisite dish by mere accident back in 1680 to please Viceroy Tomás Antonio de la Cerda y Aragón. What is true is that the current Mole Poblano is from the region of Puebla and it is different from the Mole Negro from Oaxaca. Today, there are more than 300 different moles, as the combinations of ingredients could be endless.

Some of these moles are: Mole verde ‘Pipián‘ (green mole), encacahuatado (peanut mole), almendrado (almond mole), mole rojo (red with guajillo), manchamanteles (mole with various chiles and fruits), mole amarillo (yellow mole), mole negro (black mole from Oaxaca), etc.

Mole Poblano includes about 20 different ingredients – dried chiles, Mexican chocolate, a wide variety of spices, nuts and vegetables, which after hours of boiling, this concoction reduced to the rich mole sauce we are familiar with today.

Mole Poblano is considered the National dish in Mexico

Mole Poblano is used in many ways – enmoladas (mole enchiladas), filling for tamales, on top of Mexican rice, mixed with different meats or on top of huevos estrellados – sunny side up eggs.

Mole tamales
Tamales with mole


Why is Mexican food one of the top cuisines in the world?

Mexican food – a legacy to the world over the centuries

Mexican cuisine
“Mexican food”

Mexican cuisine means much more than just guacamole, tortilla chips and salsa. It has a wide array of ingredients, flavors and colors; for this reason, Mexican food belongs to the world’s cultural heritage. In addition, it is rich in vegetables, exotic fruits, sauces (moles and salsas), chiles, spices (like cinnamon, clove and cumin), and herbs (such as thyme, oregano, cilantro and epazote). Most of these ingredients are fresh, simple, and frequently locally grown, with such a variety of combinations to create exquisite dishes.

It was to be expected that UNESCO added Mexican cuisine to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2010.

A fusion of ingredients with a big influence from Spain

Authentic Mexican cuisine is a fusion of several ingredients, condiments and indigenous vegetables through history. These include corn, mixed with other ingredients brought from other continents, such as cinnamon, almonds, beans, rice, cilantro (coriander), and plátano macho (plantain). Therefore, these ingredients now belong to the Mexican cuisine repertoire.

Only with corn there are more than 600 recipes!

Due to the abundance of corn in the central region of Mexico, this grain became the base ingredient of ancient recipes like:

  • Pozole
  • Rustic atole, made from corn starch
  • Tortilla, that didn’t exist in Europe
  • Tamales, one of the most popular Mexican traditions

Mexican cuisine preserves pre-hispanic techniques

Some of the most treasured utensils are:

  • The comal – round or oval flat pan
  • The metate – a flat or slightly hollowed oblong stone on which grains and cocoa are ground using a smaller stone
  • The molcajete – a stone tool, the traditional Mexican version of the mortar and pestle, used to process food instead of the blender
  • Ollas de barro (clay pottery) – a tradition of more than 3,000 years
Clay pot used to cook Mexican food
“Olla de Barro – Clay Pot”

“A good potter: he puts great care into his work, he teaches the clay to lie, he speaks with his own heart, he brings life to things, he creates them, he knows everything as if he were a Toltec he makes his hands skillful”  -Miguel León-Portilla

Traditional Mexican food – a cultural model that involves:

  • Agricultural activities
  • Ritual ceremonies
  • Ancient knowledge
  • Culinary techniques
  • Traditions

In fact, it involves a collective collaboration through the whole food cycle – cropping and harvesting, preparing and cooking, and tasting the dishes.

Because of its rich and complex flavors and colors, there are more than 54,000 Mexican restaurants all over the US, representing 8% of the total restaurant industry. Americans love Mexican food, and this popular cuisine type appeals to palates all across the nation. As a result, Mexican cuisine is the 3rd most popular menu type in the USA.

Mexican feasts – a celebration of life, but also of the dead

Mexican families have a special way of bonding, socializing, and connecting through food. In many towns of Mexico, people honor their muertos (dead) with their favorite food. Most of the women learn this art at a very young age from their madres (mothers) and abuelitas (grandmothers), who teach them how to cook using their instincts and creativity to prepare the most amazing delights.

Cooking with bare hands, sometimes without a formal recipe, using rudimentary utensils are basic characteristics of Mexican cooking. It is a unique way in which Mexican cooks reach the perfect taste and texture that everybody love.

In conclusion, Mexican cuisine continues to grow and improve, by incorporating more ingredients as a result of the global trade and cultural diversity, but always preserving its unique traditions and history.

If you would like to learn and cook some of this traditional recipes, I’ll bring my family recipes to you!