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What is Mole?
The word mole comes from the Nahuatl word molli, which loosely translates to "salsa" or sauce.
There are many types of moles, but in the U.S., the best known is Mole Poblano, and to make it, you need about two dozen ingredients and a whole lot of time, almost a day. Yikes! That's a no for me – luckily, nowadays, you can buy the pre-made paste and use water or some broth to bring it back to life.
Brief History of Mole
Back in pre-hispanic Mexico, mulli was served in Aztec rituals and festive occasions. With the arrival of the Spaniards, more ingredients and spices were introduced and therefore incorporated into the moles.
A better-known legend talks about a convent in Puebla where Mole was created by accident. One version of the story talks about Sor Andrea, a nun in charge of preparing a meal for an important viceroy; after praying for inspiration, God guided her to add nearly all the ingredients in the vast convent kitchen to create a memorable dish and Voila!
Another version of the story talks about Sor Andrea's loyal assistant, who the Aztecs spared because of her cooking skills. The morning the viceroy was set to arrive at the convent, Sor Andrea fell ill, so she asked her assistant to prepare Sor Andrea's family recipe; eventually, Sor Andrea came down to the kitchen and realized the assistant made her own creation. Before Sor Andrea could scold her, the assistant gave her a spoonful of her sauce, and after one taste Sor Andrea knew the sauce was far better than hers. Therefore, the assistant saved the day.
So, What's Up With The Sauce?
Mostly a variety of dried chiles such as guajillo, pasilla, ancho, and chipotle – and before you freak out, these chiles are meant to add flavor, not spiciness—other ingredients needed to make Mole include dried fruits, toasted almonds, pumpkin seeds, spices, and sometimes cacao.
What Does Mole Taste Like?
All mole sauces are different; therefore, they taste different; some might be sweeter, and some might be spicier, but the one thing they all have in common is that they are packed with flavor
Types of Mole and Their Ingredients
There are millions of recipes out there, and some people like to put their spin on a dish. Below are some of the more common ingredients for each Mole.
Mole Poblano or Red Mole is made with mulato, ancho, and pasilla chiles along with raisins, almonds, and peanuts. Mole Verde is made with fresh herbs, pumpkin seeds, cilantro, tomatillo, and jalapeños.
Mole Negro is dark in color, and it's a delightful combination of spicy, bitter, and sweet. This Mole requires cacao and spices like cinnamon, cloves, and cumin. The critical ingredient for this dish is an aromatic herb called Hoja Santa, and it tastes like licorice.
Mole Chichilo is perfect for braised dishes; some of the ingredients needed are chile de arbol, guajillo, ancho, cornflour to thicken the mixture, and beef stock.
Mole Coloradito's ingredients include fruits, spices, chiles, chocolate, nuts, and sweet plantains to thicken the paste.
Mole Manchamantel translates to "tablecloth stainer," which calls for pineapple, apples, plantains, raisins, apricots, tomatoes, and chorizo. This Mole goes well with pork and chicken.
Mole Amarillo can be made using pork, chicken, beef, or vegetarian style. The pork is seasoned with cilantro, the meat with a regional plant called Pitiona, and the chicken is seasoned with Hoja Santa. The vegetarian version calls for corn, squash shoots, and Chepil (a herb that grows during rainy seasons in the Southern parts of Mexico.)
Here are a few recipes, in case you're feeling bold!
Do you like Mole, or have you ever made Mole? Let us know in the comments!