Mole (pronounced “Moh-lay” ) is to Mexico what curry is to India, marinara is to Italy, and harissa is to Morocco.

It is one of the master sauces of world cuisine, and comes in an array of intoxicating flavours and colours. The classic mole, for which Mexico is most famous, is a rich combination of toasted chillies, nuts, fruit, veggies, unsweetened ground cocoa beans, and a range of spices. The end result is often the highlight of any festival meal in a Mexican home.

We first had Mole Poblano - the mahogany version with chilies and chocolate – in a Mexican restaurant a few years ago. Sweet, smoky and bitter flavours, heady aromas, silken texture – “dramatic” is the best way to describe it.

When Cynthia sent us a package of precious cocoa sticks from the Caribbean, we got the impetus to finally make some mole.

Cocoa sticks are pure unsweetened cocoa, made from cocoa beans that are roasted, crushed and hand rolled. They are usually grated just before use, to make cocoa tea. In Mexico, the chocolate used to make mole is either the cinnamon-flavoured Ibarra brand, or bitter cocoa nibs.

The word “Mole” comes from the Aztec word “Molli,” meaning “concoction,” “stew” or “sauce” – very similar to the connotation “curry” has in India. It is believed that Mole, in its current form, was born between 1680 and 1688 in one of the convents in the Mexican city of Puebla de los Ángeles.

The history of Mole

The two main regions of Mexico known for their moles are the southern regions of Puebla and Oaxaca. The latter is famous for its Seven Moles in a range of brilliant colours and flavours, ranging from the mild to the intense.

Most mole recipes have a long-list of ingredients. Ours has 26.

In kettles across Mexico, mole simmers, bubbles and burbles. The name, .. simply meaning “sauce,” refers not only to the sauce itself, but also to the meat, vegetables and other ingredients the sauce enrobes and flavors. Sauce and dish have become one.

Moles are as diverse as Mexico …

In general, however, when Mexicans say mole, they mean mole poblano, the Pueblan specialty and beloved national favorite whose inky, silky sauce is thickened with nuts, seeds and stale tortillas and flavored with herbs, spices, vegetables and a bit of semisweet chocolate. The sauce is baked with poultry pieces, traditionally turkey, and then draped across them just before serving.

(Source)

Chocolate is a traditional ingredient in the mahogany mole poblano and mole negro oaxaqueño, the latter being black mole from the state of Oaxaca. Others include the golden mole amarillo, the red mole rojo, and the green mole verde . Some versions have nuts and seeds, others have tomatillos, yet others have cornmeal (masa), and the Manchamanteles (literally means ‘tablecloth stainer’ ) from Mexico City and Guadalajara have fruity tropical flavours like pineapple and plantains. They also differ in terms of the types and amount of chillies used.

In Mexico, the chillies, spices and seeds are roasted on a cast iron griddle called comal, and the mole is made in a clay pot called the cazuela.

When our Mexican friend Susanna came over, Bee approached her, pen and paper in hand, and asked her how she made mole. Her face lit up at the mention of the dish. She settled down into the couch and began: “Depending on what type you’re making, get a a jar of mole paste from the store. Then … “. :D

She wasn’t being facetious. Even in Mexico, most families buy freshly made mole pastes from their favourite vendors in packages like these. Restaurants in the US rarely serve mole, ‘cos it has a long list of ingredients, takes hours to make, and needs a lot of expertise to get right.

We set off to make Mole Poblano which literally means “sauce from Puebla”, and zeroed in on this recipe from Mexican cuisine guru, Rick Bayless and Deanne Groen Bayless’s book, Authentic Mexican.

We were warned that this dish takes about 6 hours to make from start to finish, and that the whole process is best undertaken in stages over four days. That includes making the broth from scratch, and separately frying or toasting most of the 26 ingredients.

Since we substituted the turkey with Queso Blanco (a Mexican cheese that is almost identical to paneer), and used readymade veggie bouillon, it cut down a lot of the prep work. It took us 1.5 hours, start to finish. We recommend that it be kept for atleast a day for the flavours to blend and deepen, before consumption.

SOME NOTES

1. It is important to get the three varieties of chillies specified in the recipe. They have different flavour dimensions and levels of smokiness. None of these varieties are really ‘hot’. More about chili varieties HERE.

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2. Each of the chilli varieties should be fried separately ‘cos they are of varying thickness, after removing the membranes and seeds (toasting the latter makes them very bitter). We got a confusing barrage of advice. Some sites state that they should just get hot, not toasted, others state that they “should be burned without burning”.

“It’s controlled burning”, says Rick Bayless, of the process of dealing with the chillies. It’s described in beautiful detail HERE with a video demonstration. “If you toast too fast, all you get is bitterness.” Well, we toasted them for a short while (certainly not upto burning point) and ended with a very very bitter sauce.

We increased the jaggery from 2 tbsp to 2/3 cup. The next day, the bitterness mellowed down, and the flavours were just perfect.

Since this is not black mole, but the rich brown mole poblano, the chillies need not be taken to the ‘edge of being burnt’. Barely toasted is all we need. We prefer to be safe, rather than sorry. We also take solace from Bayless’s confession: “It was years before I attempted to put black mole on the menu.” This particular mole is not black, but the colour of dark chocolate.

3. We halved the recipe and still ended up with enough to feed an army.

DARK AND SPICY MOLE WITH QUESO BLANCO

(Mole Poblano de Queso Blanco)

Adapted from this recipe from Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless and Deann Groen Bayless

Yields 2 quarts of sauce

1. The chillies:
Cut, deseed and remove membranes from
4 ounces dried chiles mulatos
1.25 ounces dried chiles anchos
1 ounce dried chiles pasilla negros

Save 1 tsp of the chilli seeds.

Turn on the exhaust fan, then in 2 tbsps oil, fry each type of chilli separately until slightly toasted. (See notes above) Remove them to a large bowl, cover the chiles with boiling water, weigh with a plate to keep them submerged, soak at least 1 hour, then drain and discard the chilli water.

Add
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce (optional)

Puree everything together with half a cup of vegetable broth (we used Better than Bouillon) to a smooth paste.

2. The tomato-chocolate-spice-seed mixture:

Take 5 ounces of canned or fresh, cooked tomatoes,

Pound to a powder and add:
1 ounces bitter or bittersweet chocolate
5 black peppercorns
2 cloves (or about 1/8 teaspoon ground)
1/4 teaspoon aniseed
1/2 inch cinnamon stick

In a medium size skillet set over medium heat, dry toast the
reserved chilli seeds (1 tsp)
2 tbsps. white sesame seeds
1/4 tsp coriander seeds

one at a time, stirring each until it has lightly browned. Add to the tomato mixture.

3. The nuts, flavorings and thickeners:

Frying individually in 1/4 cup oil:

1 ounce unskinned almonds (for 3-4 minutes)).

Remove, and next fry
1 ounce raisins (until puffed up)

Remove and fry together
1/2 cup onion, sliced
1 clove peeled and chopped garlic

until well caramelised (about 8 minutes)

Remove, and next fry
1 corn tortilla (or 1 slice of old firm bread), stale or dried out
until brown.

Add everything to the tomato mixture and grind with as much vegetable broth as required to a smooth puree.

In the same oil, fry the chilli puree for 4-5 minutes, then add the tomato paste and fry some more until thick.
Mix in 5 cups of vegetable broth, and salt to taste, partially cover, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer gently 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Finally, season with 2 tbsps maple syrup or jaggery - traditionally piloncillo is used. (We ended up adding 2/3rd cup. See notes above) If the sauce is thicker than heavy cream, thin it with a little broth.

Broil 4 cups of Queso Blanco (paneer or tofu will work as well) cubes until golden on the edges, or use them as they are (we didn’t broil them).

Shortly before serving add the cheese cubes to the sauce. Garnish with sesame seeds if you wish.

Better after a day, even better after two days.

A typical Mexican feast would have mole, corn tortillas, arroz rojo (red rice), and tamales (see this plate), rounded off with a sweet flan. We served ours with Arroz Rojo (Red Tomato Rice).

Mole Poblano de Queso Blanco with Arroz Rojo

Verdict: Smoky, silken, sweet and bitter, all at once. Susanna tasted it two days after it was made and requested a container to take some home to her family. That’s the best compliment we’ve ever received.

This vegetarian Mexican feast goes to dear Meeta‘s Monthly Mingle @ What’s for Lunch, Honey?, where the theme is Traditonal Feasts.

The Mole Page
Chili to Chili in Mole-Sauce City
Types of Mole
Oaxaca in pictures
Festival del Mole

This is our entry for Dhivya’s A.W.E.D @ Culinary Bazaar.

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44 Comments

  1. srini44 says:

    :bow: for Mexican King and Queen :bow:

  2. aa says:

    Thanks J and B — you’ve taken so much of the guesswork out of the mole for me — I am prompted to try it soon. I saw some cocoa nibs at the co-op last week, but will keep my eyes open for the sticks as well.

  3. [...] Check it out! While looking through the blogosphere we stumbled on an interesting post today.Here’s a quick excerptWhen Chilli Meets Chocolate: Vegetarian Mole Poblano November 25, 2007 | 1 Comment Mole (pronounced “Moh-lay” ) is to Mexico what curry is to India, marinara is to Italy, and harissa is to Morocco. It is one of the master sauces of world cuisine, and comes in an array of intoxicating flavours and colours. The classic mole, for which Mexico is most famous, is a rich combination of toasted chillies, nuts, fruit, veggies, unsweetened ground cocoa beans, and a range of spices. The end result is [...]

  4. alpa says:

    Wow, you guys are so brave to try one of Chef Bayless’ recipe from Authentic Mexican. I haven’t attempted to make anything from it, I only use it for reference/research.

  5. Manisha says:

    Hats off to you guys! I have only dared to stare at a few recipes for mole. Enough to feed an army, eh? Sounds like there will be a stampede to get to your doorstep now!

    I saw Queso Blanco for the first time last week and wondered if I should buy some – I think I will now!

    Thanks for this riveting post! Really!

  6. Rajitha says:

    i gotta give to both of you for trying to make food that many of us buy readymade….i’m not sure if i can pull this off…but i am still bookmarking it in the hopes of maybe i will

  7. [...] Check it out! While looking through the blogosphere we stumbled on an interesting post today.Here’s a quick excerptWhen Chilli Meets Chocolate: Vegetarian Mole Poblano November 25, 2007 | 1 Comment Mole (pronounced “Moh-lay” ) is to Mexico what curry is to India, marinara is to Italy, and harissa is to Morocco. It is one of the master sauces of world cuisine, and comes in an array of intoxicating flavours and colours. The classic mole, for which Mexico is most famous, is a rich combination of toasted chillies, nuts, fruit, veggies, unsweetened ground cocoa beans, and a range of spices. The end result is [...]

  8. enjay says:

    Gorgeous..a labor of love, this one. Amazing color.There’s a mole’ variation (with bananas, no less!) that Didi Emmons wrote about in The Vegetarian Planet..I thought it was pretty cool.

  9. Linda says:

    Wow, it certainly looks fabulous, and I give you both a lot of credit for taking the time (even with “shortcuts”) to put this together. I was fortunate enough to have lunch at Frontera Grill a couple of years ago — now you have me wanting to try mole too ;)

  10. jaden says:

    WOW! what an amazing post with a dynamic photograph. love the contrast in colors!

  11. musy says:

    Love mole’! and that request from Susanna indeed is a huge copliment!! Good going, friends!

  12. shivapriya says:

    I have never tried anything like this, but seen something similar version on FoodTV longback. Thanks for sharing the recipe and info about mole. Awesome pictures.

  13. sra says:

    I had chocolate chicken at a Mexican place once, don’t remember it being sweet, though!

  14. bindiya says:

    You have gone to great lengths to make this, but the end result must be worth it.

  15. archana_MamaOfTwins says:

    your mole looks amazing. After your Queso Blanco post a while ago i have been making Palak Paneer with it almost weekly.. my little son LOVES the palak paneer with queso blanco but not regular paneer.

    Also, Trader Joes has a pretty decent mole sauce in a bottle. Thats what I used last week on my beans, chicken instant mexi meal.. your version looks way better but I dont think I have the patience. :)

  16. Anita says:

    I have wanted to make this sauce forever now – the non-availability of ingredients locally has been a big stumbling block.
    :bow: Totally! :bow: It is looking exactly like it does in my dreams! ;)

  17. Kaykat says:

    Mole makes me happy! :) I didn’t quite get into it when I was in Mexico, but lately I’ve fallen in love with the rich, earthy flavors of a good mole! And this looks better than good!

    Hey, given your non-fiction passion, you might enjoy this book about chocolate http://www.amazon.com/Chocolate-Bittersweet-Saga-Dark-Light/dp/0865476357 – especially the section about mexico and oaxaca and mole :)

  18. Nirmala says:

    :yes: and :bow: for your efforts!

  19. U always research so well on all u’r posts! Thumbs Up!!! We have registered on Food Blog Desam long back- dunno why our URL isn’t activated! Thanks so much for u’r support- appreciate it!!

  20. Meeta says:

    Oh my what an impressive dish. This is by far the most wonderful and exclusive dish I have set my eyes on. Thank you for this grand entry!

  21. Rachna says:

    bee moley…. i never heard of mole before…as always… total education for me here….as always…. love the pics and the sounds of this sauce is making my mouth water….cocoay… nutty…spicy…hot…. WOW

  22. Nags says:

    this post was greek to me. really! i dont think i will ever reach this stage in my cooking life. :D

  23. Asha says:

    Looks fabulous! Love the Mole sauce too, not sweet but tastes so good. Love the photos!:)

  24. sandeepa says:

    Wow really appreciate your work to go through all that work :yes:

    And your plating (is that what it is called?) is absolutely wonderful

  25. Maninas says:

    I’m very impressed! :)

  26. richa says:

    wow! that looks fabulous :D
    after susanna, r u taking any more container requests ? :D

  27. Namratha says:

    Wow! What a combination and this truly is an awesome well described post, looks too much to handle for me, but looks too tempting not to try. I will be on the look out for the ingredients and may just go ahead and give it a try…fabulous Bee! :bow:

  28. Laavanya says:

    That is one complicated recipe for sure… but you guys have pulled it off really well. Sauce looks lovely.

  29. mandira says:

    Fronterra Grill is on my list to try… and then I see this delicious mole, yummy! You have certainly made my day :)

  30. Cynthia says:

    I am constantly in awe of you two! I can just imagine the experiements that take place in your home :)

  31. Miri says:

    Haven’t ever tasted Mole before, but from how it looks in the magnificent photos here and your great descriptions, I am sure it is completely droolworthy and I would love it!

    Kudos on taking the time and effort for such a divine creation!

  32. Nora says:

    Hi bee & jai,
    terrific post! And gorgeous photos too. I am a chilli addict, so I wish I can have a tasting of all the chillies and of course the beautiful dish you made there. I can imagine how excited my taste buds would be. :D

    nora

  33. pelicano says:

    Eeeek! You two got to it before me! And then I was hoping Anita hadn’t been here yet….no such luck! Oh, such beautiful mole poblano you two made! Did the chile-fumes do you in? :-)

    I made Oaxacan mole negro once several years ago- it uses all of the seeds roasted quite darkly, and thus it is rather bitter. A very acquired taste I think, though I was intrigued by something with “black” in the name. And the recipe I used made heaps of it that I ended up freezing and eventually…er…not using. I’ve made the green one once too, but the ever-popular mole poblano is still my favorite- exquisite creation, and beautiful job on your part!

    Gorgeous pieces of chocolate from Cynthia!

  34. Johanna says:

    Wow this post has so much good info on mole – I am just a chocolate lover who will use chocolate in any way possible so don’t know much about mole – but I finally made (and posted about) a mole I loved last week so was excited to see your illuminating post

  35. [...] When Chilli Meets Chocolate: Vegetarian Mole Poblano [...]

  36. DK says:

    Mama mia!This is awesome! so many ingredients and that too ethnic ones! I guess i missed this particular post of yours before. Good that I got to chk it out now!

    mind boggling..thanks for sending this to the event.

  37. [...] was called Borlotti Bean Mole with Roast Winter Squash and Kale. I’ve long wanted to make a good mole. Anything with chocolate sounds good to me. I have tried a few moles in the past but not been too [...]

  38. Margie says:

    I am impressed, amazed and overwhelmed, but hopefully I’ll overcome that last item. lol. I want to put this item on my list of ‘to-do’s. If I could master this, I could gain confidence over many others challenges. Working with peppers is always an experience, watery eyes, nostrils that clear and a punch-packed explosion once the item is offered in a dish.

    You offered so much information, links and such, that this is being bookmarked. I’ll be savouring the details in hopes of creating this lovely sauce. My dearest and best friend taught me how to make home-made tortillas years ago, along with many of her other native dishes. It would be wonderful if I could master this and surprise her with it as a gift.

    Thanks for sharing the experience.

  39. [...] Bayless is our fail-proof source for any Mexican recipe. (See Mole Poblano, Arroz Rojo and The Perfect Tomato [...]

  40. [...] jugalbandi When Chilli Meets Chocolate Vegetarian Mole Poblano Posted by root 1 day 44 minutes ago (http://jugalbandi.info) In mexico the chillies spices and seeds are roasted on a cast iron griddle called comal and the mole is made in a clay pot called the cazuela Discuss  |  Bury |  News | jugalbandi when chilli meets chocolate vegetarian mole poblano [...]

  41. [...] nibs are perfect for savoury chocolate dishes like the Mexican mole or Champurrado (the hot chocolate drink thickened with corn [...]

  42. [...] and he’s had mole many times so he’s kind of an authority (at least compared to me.)  I basically followed this recipe which is a veganized version of the Mole Poblano recipe in Rick Bayless: Authentic Mexican, at [...]



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