Welcome to Food in Focus. Each week we will post about different food from around the world, explaining what it is, where it comes from, where you can eat it and how to make it yourselves! To kick us off, we are exploring molé, a popular Mexican dish that is found all over the world in different shapes and forms.
What is Molé?
In short, a ‘molé’ is a sauce and tends to accompany another dish and can be poured on top, or served alongside it. That said, it is now common to find molé served as a dish in it’s own right and if you were to see it on a menu it would most probably be the classic molé, called molé poblano..
Molé comes in many different forms and some you will be very familiar with, such as guacamolé, whilst others include pipían and huaxmolé. They tend to come in many different colours, so don’t be surprised to see black, yellow or green variants. The core ingredients tend to be similar throughout all molés and are classic Mexican: fruit, nut, spices such as pepper, cinnamon and cumin, chocolate and of course plenty of chillies! Not all molés contain all of these ingredients but certainly a combination of a few of them. You will then find that each molé will also have a number of other ingredients, sometimes up to 30 in all which helps give it a deep and rich flavour.
As with much Mexican cooking, chilli provides much of the flavour you would expect, and typically you will find molé one or more varieties of chilli within the dish, certainly in Mexico itself. The classic chillies used tend to be, chipotle, ancho, pasilla and mulato. Chocolate is often put in at the end of the cooking process to counter the heat of these chillies and helps to give a rich, dark colour to the dish.
Where does it come from?
Mexico! The true roots of the dish are unknown, but the dish is a mix of Central American, European and African influences which makes it one of the first truly international dishes to be created. the first recipes seem to have only been written after the Mexican War of Independance in 1810, but it is likely to have been made with local knowledge being passed down through generations before then. Although chilli sauces will have been consumed in the ancient civilisations of Central America, the use of chocolate is though to only be a later addition to the dish, as it was more commonly used as a drink prior to the Europeans arriving in what is now Mexico.
Where can you eat it?
If you are looking for the full molé experience, then you will need to head to southern or central Mexico where you will find huge varieties of the dish. Puebla City, south east of Mexico City in the state of Puebla is famous for it’s molé poblano, whilst Oaxaca nicknamed ‘the land of seven molés’ and has a wide range of traditional variants of the dish.
In San Pedro Atocpan, they have an annual Festival of Molé, names ‘Feria Nacional del Molé which takes place in October. This is a pure celebration of the dish, with restaurants and molé producers showcasing their talents for the dish. This is just one of many molé festivals to take place across Mexico each year.
Outside of Mexico, Chicago holds and annual festival named ‘Molé de Mayo’, which was initially set up to help Mexican immigrants settle in the city, and now pits local chefs against each other to make the best molé. The festival takes place on 18th Street in Chicagos Pilsen district in late May.
Within Mexico, you will be able to pick up a molé as street food, local cooking and in most restaurants. the next best can be found in the southern states of USA where large Mexican populations help create a vibrant food scene. Throughout the rest of the world, keep an eye out for molé poblano and of course guacamolé!
How to make it?
Visit our recipe page to find my twist on this classic dish!