Mole, mole mole…(mole-ay) is one of my favourite Mexican dishes not only because it is rich and flavourful but because one of the ingredients is chocolate.
These intricate sauces, made by toasting and grinding spices, seeds, and chiles, are truly the hallmark of the Oaxaca region and in fact was invented there. The wide variety of “mole” in Oaxaca is enough to satisfy the most demanding palates. The different types you won’t find anywhere else – they include black, red, yellow, green, “coloradito,” “chichilo,” and mole with almonds.
If you’re craving a burrito you’ll have to go elsewhere.
If you’re a cheese lover you might miss certain varieties like sharp cheddar, creamy brie or blue but they have a cheese, known as “quesillo,” which whether alone, in quesadillas, or with snacks, is a Oaxacan specialty that you should certainly try. Grasshoppers are another typical dish of Oaxaca.
You can find them everywhere – even the top hotels and restaurants (so be aware the Spanish name is “Chapulines” otherwise you might think you’re getting some exotic sounding beef because when it’s covered in mole you can’t really tell). These delicious (so they say) fried insects are eaten in tacos, and the tradition says that whoever eats grasshoppers, will return to Oaxaca. Oh, oh…I didn’t know about this before now. Where are the little buggers when you need them? I don’t remember the last time I saw a grasshopper here in Vancouver – I think they all mistakenly moved to Mexico for the warmer weather.
Other typical dishes from Oaxaca are “Tamales” stuffed with “mole,” poblano chili strips, or beans, and wrapped in banana leaves. “Tlayudas” (tla-u-da) are another appetizer that you can find almost anywhere. I shared one in a market which was topped with delicious Mexican chorizo (a cut above – with less grease or fat), avocado, tomato, beans & cheese and it tasted great on a crunchy tostada. Other traditional dishes are the beef called “tasajo,” jerky, and “chiles rellenos” or stuffed chile.
In short, everything we ordered tasted superb and the care of presentation was impressive. Of course getting a tumbler of mexcal before your meal ensures everything will taste good.
But honestly, I have nothing but rave reviews for the culinary skills of Oaxaca. Squash blossom flower sauce anyone? During ten days my friend Judy introduced me to some of the finest places to eat so if you plan to go just let me know and I’ll be happy to recommend a few
places to drinkspots.
Next week I will post an authentic red mole recipe but I’ll forewarn you that it is time consuming and maybe 1% of you will actually make it. It is however less expensive than travelling all the way to Oaxaca.
Photos: d. king (click to enlarge)