food & drink

Mole Is One Of The Most Recognizable Foods In The World. Here’s How It Came To Be

Literally all we know from our Mexican childhoods is that mole is the special sauce that mami brings out for special occasions. Like the day after Thanksgiving, or Noche Buena. I come from a family of lazy Latinos, so we never make mole from scratch, but somehow, it was still always reserved for blow out meals. No back story, just thick, spicy, chocolate sauce all over turkey leftovers.

Nobody really knows the origin of mole, but Puebla and Oaxaca claim that they are the sauce’s home.

CREDIT: @ricarpach / Twitter

There are dozens of different types of mole sauces, but the two most popular come from Puebla and Oaxaca. If you’ve ever had mole negro, you’ve had the most complex and savory moles around, from Oaxaca. What makes it different is the hoja santa, a native plant to the region that tastes like a combination of eucalyptus, licorice, anise, nutmeg, mint and black pepper.

Like every Latino origin story, nuns are at the center.

CREDIT: @iwitnest / Twitter

There are a few different legends, but the most famous takes place in the colonial period in Puebla at the Convent of Santa Clara. The nuns were told an archbishop was going to unexpectedly join them for a meal. The broke nuns started praying and started combining bits of what they had on hand: chili peppers, spices, old bread, nuts and some chocolate.

God answered their prayers and with that, mole was born.

CREDIT: @hereandnow / Twitter

They killed an old turkey and served the sauce over him/her. The bishop loved it and asked the name of the dish. She just said, “Me hizo un mole,” i.e. “mix” and the name stuck every since.

On average, moles require an average of 20-30 ingredients.

CREDIT: @MiaMBloom / Twitter

Mole poblano uses an average of 20 ingredients while Oaxacan moles can use over 30 ingredients. The chocolate is always added at the end of cooking, if used at all.

Back in the day, all the women in the family would come together to make the sauce.

CREDIT: @isaidominguez / Twitter

Traditionally, it would take a whole day to roast and grind the chiles, tomatillos, dried fruits and spices by hand. This is why it’s something reserved for special occasions. You have to make it in a large batch for it to all be worth it.

Thank God for Doña María.

CREDIT: Untitled. Digital Image. Walmart. 13 October 2018.

I am certain that it doesn’t taste as good as fresh mole, but ain’t nobody got time to spend a whole day making sauce. Unless you dare tell your mama you’re bored and then she’ll put you to work.

Fact: mole goes on turkey if formal and chicken if casual.

CREDIT: @CHOW / Twitter

It’s just how it is. It’s how the nuns did it, so the turkey is more sagrada or something. Either way, remember to mmmm and ay, que rico after the first bite or you’ll cause a fight with the chef.

Don’t worry, veganos. Mole is easily veganized.

CREDIT: @mrgan / Twitter

Instead of using chicken broth to dilute the paste, you can use veggie broth or water, and top it over some roasted delicata squash. Disfrute.

Fun fact: Mexico City airport once admitted that mole can register a positive for explosives.

CREDIT: @mathewrodriguez / Twitter

As visitors leave Mexico City with pounds of mole powder and pastes that carry a very strong odor, they are often stopped by security agents are alerted. Our stomachs are steel.

One step removed from tradition is pouring it over enchiladas.

CREDIT: @chef_bryantk / Twitter

And by “tradition,” I mean the old tales of nuns killing old turkeys to impress an old guy. In my carb-loving opinion, enchiladas are far superior to any kind of meat.

Mole belongs on literally everything. Try me.

CREDIT: @eatdrinkvegan / Twitter

It’s the American way. Replace protein with fried corn chips. You’re basically looking at a metaphor for you, the Latino-American.

Some chefs have started to use mole sauce in lieu of tomato sauce for Mexi-pizza.

CREDIT: “Chicken Mole Pizza – lacocinadeleslie.com” Digital Image. La Cocina de Leslie. 13 October 2018.

I am 100 percent here for that. Tomato sauce is the mayo of the sauce world. Bring on the mole.

Go ahead. Pour that mole on your fries.

CREDIT: @LAist / Twitter

Again, here we go replacing tomatoes with chiles and chocolate. It’s a no-brainer which one will taste better, because mole simply tastes delicious on everything.

Meet the Mexican Benedict:

CREDIT: @lasandiatc / Twitter

I’m screaming. Yes, that’s a poached egg doused in mole over braised lechón on a sope on a “bed” of refried beans. Someone make this for me.

Another example of how you can use mole in lieu of ketchup for every occasion:

CREDIT: @lilwoodys / Twitter

I mean, am I wrong? If you live in LA, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a burger joint that doesn’t have a “Mexican-style” burger that is not covered in (probably Doña María) mole sauce.

Some Mexican spots are experimenting with Thai fusion.

CREDIT: @theblackantnyc / Twitter

The Blank Ant in New York City serves mole over deep fried egg rolls and it looks incredible. It’s deep fried, so it’s effectively Mexican.

An NYC restaurant has been reported serving mole over crispy duck dumplings.

CREDIT: @jeaniuseats / Twitter

Chef Mario Hernandez at The Black Ant NYC has been serving “Holy Mole to Mexican Crispy Duck Dumplings.” He opts for a Oaxacan mole negro, pears and sprinkles of creamy queso fresco.

If you’ve heard of the Black Ant before, it’s because they’re known for serving ‘gourmet’ insects.

Claro, se puede ponerlo en burritos.

CREDIT: @VictoriasTavern / Twitter

It’s a given, but it’s worth mentioning the next time you consider getting Chipotle. Remember: they don’t have la salsa sagrada.

Use it as a base for chili.

CREDIT: @BetterForYou1 / Twitter

At that point though, you might as well just toss in a few Doña Marías. I mean, all those tomatoes are straight up drowning out the flavor, but who am I to judge?

I pray for a world where we can just buy traditional mole in bulk.

CREDIT: @davidrpoliti / Twitter

Oh, espera. That world exists. It’s Mexico, baby, and next time I go, I’m setting off all the TSA alarms.


READ: You May Know Them As Tamales, But In These Countries They’re Known As Something Else

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17 Latino Foods That Taste Great, But You Should Avoid Eating Too Often

Food & Drink

17 Latino Foods That Taste Great, But You Should Avoid Eating Too Often

Expressions of love and joy. If we had to sum up what cooking and food means in the Latino culture, those terms pretty much nail it. Por que? Because for most, our earliest childhood memories revolve around the cocina in our homes where cooking alongside mami and abuela were a regular happening. No tengo hambre is basically a swear word, si?

Yet in today’s culture of Instagram perfection and with more focus on eating healthy for longevity and looks – we may need to cut back on some of the more traditional eats (think: those loaded with lard).

We’ve gathered a lengthy list of our most delicious favorites. But by no means is this a warning to stay away from these classic foods for good, after all, rich foods mean rich traditions.

1. Flautas

Twitter @carnitasmexica2

Flautas get their name from their shape. These crowd-pleasing favorites consist of corn tortillas being filled with everything from shredded meats and cheeses to onions and papas.

Once they are filled – then the magic happens, as in throwing them into the fryer magic. Out comes a crispy, warm, cousin to the taquito, bursting with savory yumminess – that you should delight in sparingly.

2. Tortillas con queso

Twitter@IsmarMiranda01

Maybe you call these round beauties “quesadillas” or “pupusas de Queso” but no matter what region of the world you eat them in, one thing is for certain, cheese stuffed tortillas make for good eats.

But all that cheese can add up to a lot of saturated fat and higher cholesterol levels.

3. Ceviche

Twitter@CasaSolyMar1

Ay Dios mio, surely this dish is delicious and not unhealthy. True, but those fried tostadas we use as a fork substitute to shovel this succulent seafood dish into our mouths – yeah, not so healthy.

4. Queso Fundido

Twitter@CncharliesLV

With this dish it’s all in the name, FUN-dido! This ooey-gooey, molten dish of cheese has a place in our collective corazones. Add some tequila, throw in some chilies for a bit of heat or just serve this pot of deliciousness up as is. This is definitely a celebration kind of meal to be enjoyed on occasion.

5.Huevos Rancheros

Instagram@cocinacaseramx   

This traditional Mexican breakfast packs a lot of paunch, I mean, punch. Fried eggs, refried beans, and cheese smothered in a creamy tomato sauce and heaped on top of a warm tortilla.

Most of us could dive into a plate of huevos rancheros morning, noon, or night. But keep in mind, all the fried and refried bits make this classic high in calories.

6. Chiles Rellenos

Twitter@Sergio_Perez13

Cheesy-stuffed chilies, breaded and fried to perfection. There are endless variations of this Mexican dish being created all over the globe. So if you can’t see yourself limiting your consumption of chilies – try one of the healthier takes on this staple, such as broiling or baking the peppers instead of frying.

7. Chorizo

Twitter@xchuyx3

The main ingredient is pork fat… see, it’s dripping with health! Okay, it’s not, but chorizo is muy deliciosa—it can be served smoked, sweet, spicy but what it isn’t, is heart healthy. So, take it easy on the sausage mis amigos.

8. Platanos maduros fritos

Twitter@recipesallkinds

A true staple in any Latin kitchen—of course your more traditional relatives might argue ripe plantains are the only real way to make this dish to lock down the sweetest fried treat possible.  

9. Hot Dogs

Instagram@Jojoalaire

We’ll call this dish “new-age” Latin, even though bacon wrapped dogs have been associated with Sonora since the ‘40s. These pork masterpieces have been Latino inspired since their inception.

Popular toppings include chilies, sour cream, even crumbed chorizo — ay the possibilities!

10. Tostadas

twitter@TacosMexi

The picture a tostada paints is pretty clear—it’s a “toasted” (and by that we mean deep fried) tortilla of excellence. Again, eating deep fried food on a regular basis increases a myriad of health risks, think diabetes, heart disease, and weight gain.

11. Nacatamal

Instagram@avaughan6585

A Nicaraguan specialty, nacatamales are seen a lot especially in legit eateries and possibly your abuelita’s freezer. Wrapped in plantain leaves and stemmed, it’s hard to believe this beautiful dish isn’t healthy. I mean there’s leaves involved people! But the base for the tamal is usually a lard dough mixture—definitely not something you’ll see on a recommended food pyramid.

12. Sopes

Instagram@_chicaflash

Again with the frying, again with the variants, but sopes hit-the-spot 100% of the time.  We get that it’s hard to wave away these thicker versions of tortillas, presented with mouth-watering meats, vegetables, and cheeses. Can it be healthy if it’s literally fried just so it can hold up against its massive toppings load? You know the answer…

13. Empanadas and Pastelitos

https://www.instagram.com/elrincon.demipais/

It’s an empanada, it’s a pastelito, it’s a Latino version of a calzone – whatever you want to call it, these meat-stuffed turnovers, fried golden brown are hard to resist and hard on your health.

14. Flan

Instagram@pedrolambertini

Flan is just one of those desserts…caramelized sugar and a creamy egg custard whipped up to edible glee. It may require just three base ingredients, but this confection can send you and your blood sugar soaring.

15. Arroz Con Pollo

Instagram@rosychavez76

This dish goes by a few different names. Whether you know it as Arroz con pollo, Locrio de pollo or simply mama’s chicken and rice, this classic is briny, aromatic and oh so flavorful. With healthy-esque components like chicken, peas (hello, Goya) and onions, it seems like a fairly fit dish. But given that we usually like the darker meat and a fair amount (read: lots and lots) of rice loaded in, this meal is infused with high levels of sodium.

16. Tacos

Twitter@TonyOnFood

Tacos have made their mark in America; food trucks, taco shops, and even gourmet eateries offering these incredible concoctions up to hungry patrons. While there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on where tacos came from, the most common theory is they were developed by mine workers in Mexico. Something to think about as you work your way through a plate of pastor or pescado tacos on occasion, of course.

17. Churros

Instagram@foodylandia

Churros are the enemy and by that we mean way too good to stop at one. These dessert items are seen throughout Latin America sold by street vendors and restaurants alike. Like most things on our list, these delights are made from fried dough then sprinkled with sugar, drizzled with chocolate, made into magical unicorn horns… you know ALL the things.

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