Chocolate and pepper is not just the name of an opera. And chocolate with meat is not the only attraction of the reality of MasterChef. In Mexico, these three ingredients create a dish steeped in history and with international influence, mole poblano.
Typical of Puebla, a state in the south-central part of the country, the recipe that uses ancestral Aztec knowledge gained popularity almost 300 years ago. Since then, it has been considered a symbol of cultural fusion by combining native and European foods.
Peruvian David Lechtig, who grew up in Guatemala and has run the Mexican restaurant El Paso in Brasília since 1995, sums it up:
Mole poblano is an official representative of Mexico, just like the feijoada of Brazil”.
The dish, usually served at parties for its difficulty level, consists of pieces of meat served under a dark sauce.
It can be made with chicken or pork, but the most traditional is turkey. “The Spaniards introduced the animal and it was eaten only by the nobles.” Whatever the meat is, it is cooked separately and finished in the sauce, which is the main star of the meal.
Mole: identity and difficulty
The list of ingredients for the preparation changes according to the tradition of each family. “In the beginning, the recipe had more than 100 ingredients. Today, the number is between 15 and 20,” said David.
The most common is the presence of chocolate (always bitter), dry, smoked or sweet peppers (chipotle, chilli, pasilla, etc.), fruits (tomatoes, bananas, raisins), spices (cinnamon, cloves, aniseed) and seeds or nuts. (sesame, pumpkin, peanuts, almonds), in addition to garlic, onions, tortillas and bread – the latter are included in the mixture as adults.
To extract the best flavor possible, the preparation is difficult. “At first it was made in a shell, everything is stuffed in a hot stone”. Today, an iron pot and a blender help make the job a little easier.
The idea is to roast and grind each ingredient one by one to add flavor. Some go straight into the pan and some require lard. However, thinking about the taste of the flavor, the water reduces the heat a little with the water from cooking nutritious food.
The meat of choice (chicken, turkey or pork) is usually dipped in the sauce twenty minutes before going to the plate covered with sesame and next to the rice and tortillas. Mexican-born Eduardo Ortiz, president of Sao Paulo restaurant Metzi, said:
The taste is slightly sweet, spicy and has a strong presence of spices,” he said.
To shorten the recipe, markets and fairs throughout Mexico sell prepared moles. With them, amateur and professional cooks only need to stir the paste into the meat broth.
Myths about origins
The discussion about the origin of the poblano mole is the same as in other traditional fields: many conjectures and uncertainties.
The most common story is that he was born when a Spanish priest went to visit a convent in Puebla. Those who are responsible for impressing, the nuns cook turkey with a sauce that combines ingredients from the inhabitants and the capital city.
A legend says that chocolate and spices were mixed into the dish by accident. Intentionally invented or not, the soup would please the elite and gain fame across the land.
Frida Kahlo was a fan
One of the people who spread the mole poblano recipe in history is Frida Kahlo (1907-1954). The world famous Mexican singer received friends for dinner at her home and served the usual food.
The contents of the mole ended up on the walls of the Museo Frida Kahlo, in Mexico City, where the artist was born, grew up, lived with the artist and her husband Diego Rivera and died. Also known as Casa Azul, the place celebrates the artist’s work through objects, photographs and private objects.
The step-by-step recipe was published in the book Frida’s Fiestas, published in 1994, and can be found on the museum’s website.