I have now tried four of the seven famed moles of Oaxaca, and I’ve been lucky enough to have three of them home-made by Patty, my homestay mother.
Although I am still learning, I think it’s safe to define “mole” (pronounced “mol-ay”) as a sauce, period. Each kind has different ingredients, different kinds of chiles, different kinds of spices, different nuts or seeds, and sometimes even chocolate. The mole might be served over chicken or turkey, to be eaten with rice and tortillas, or mixed into tamales, or spread on a tlayuda. Some are more everyday than others, like the mole verde we whipped up in a blender on class last Wednesday, while the ultimate mole of moles, mole negro, is a serious operation that can take all day and is therefore reserved for Christmas, fiestas, and other special occasions.
I came to Oaxaca ostensibly to learn Spanish. That’s what I told Yale, when I told them I was going on unpaid sabbatical and needed to continue to receive loan repayment assistance. But really, I came to Oaxaca to learn to make mole negro and to eat and ponder each of the seven moles of Oaxaca.
So here’s the score so far:
Mole negro in tamales oaxaquenos, which are wrapped in banana leaves instead of corn husks: an out-of-the-ballpark 10.
Mole coloradito with chicken and rice: an outstanding 9. Such a beautiful deep red. (Sorry, no photo.)
Mole verde with chicken and tortillas made in class at ICO: a satisfying 6.5. Very bright and tasty but not as complex as the others.
Mole amarillo with chicken and rice: a very good 7.5. More orange than yellow, with an interesting flavor that’s deeper than the verde but brighter, perhaps because of the last-minute squeeze of lime, than the coloradito.
So only three more to go: rojo, chichilo, and manchamantel!