Red, Green, Yellow: Taste the Rainbow of Mexican Mole
Chocolate for dinner—who’s in? No, we’re not talking about skipping the plato principal and going straight for postre. We’re talking about one of Mexico’s greatest culinary inventions: the one and only mole.
True, it’s one of the most commonplace dishes in the country, especially in Oaxaca, known as “the land of seven moles.” But foreigners are sometimes taken by surprise when they try this unique sauce for the first time. And there are plenty of misconceptions about mole, too: many varieties, for instance, don’t contain chocolate at all.
Let’s go over four of the main types of mole—red, black, green, and yellow—and look at some mouthwatering real-life examples of each.
Red mole, like many other variations, is made with a wide range of ingredients. Rick Bayless, an American chef who specializes in Mexican cuisine, organizes those ingredients into five categories: chiles, sweet (sugar and/or dried fruits), sour (usually tomatillos), spices, and thickeners (often nuts.)
In mole rojo, the chief ingredients are chile peppers (usually pasilla and ancho), onion, garlic, ground nuts or seeds, sugar, and, yes, chocolate. It’s often served with chicken, turkey, or rabbit. It’s worth nothing, though, that the mole itself is considered more important than whatever it accompanies.
Más chocolate, por favor. Oaxaca’s best-loved mole is the rich mole negro, which, like mole rojo, includes chocolate and chili peppers. The special ingredient here is an herb called hoja santa. It’s dark and sumptuous, supposedly the most difficult variation of mole for chefs and home cooks to prepare. ¡Que aproveche!
As the color suggests, mole verde is fresh and bright, made with green chiles and pumpkin seeds. And a range of other ingredients, of course: green tomatoes, chile de árbol, celery, cilantro, parsley, garlic, chicken broth, chard, radish leaves... You get the picture. The ingredients are chopped and ground, then fried in a pan before being served with chicken or pork and rice and beans.
If you hear a Mexican calling a dish “amarillo,” they’re talking about this Oaxacan staple that’s often served with chicken and potatoes or beef. In the place of its origin, it’s also stuffed inside empanadas with shredded chicken and hoja santa—the same flavorful herb that gives mole negro its special flavor.
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