Best Traditional Mole Verde in Oaxaca:
Recipe and More
Oaxacan Green Mole, from Renowned Chef Esperanza Chavarría Blando
Alvin Starkman, M.A., LL.B. (Article archive)
The seven moles of Oaxaca is a fiction. But the notion is an effective means of marketing Oaxacan cuisine and gastronomy. While mole verde is indeed one of the purported seven, the fact that there are so many different recipes for Oaxacan mole verde, with divergent ingredients and resulting taste variations, lays testament to the myth of seven.
Mole Verde: Modern vs. Traditional Ingredients, Cooking Method and Presentation
The recipe of Oaxacan chef Pilar Cabrera Arroyo contains a very different ingredient list than that of the late native Mexican chef Esperanza Chavarría Blando (recipe below). The incarnation of Chef Pilar pleases the palate of the nouveau cuisine and health-conscious crowd, utilizing chicken as principal protein, and of course without lard. The mole is poured over sliced breast, neatly arranged on a plate with steamed veggies and a starch. The Chavarría mole verde recipe includes Manteca (pork fat), pork spine, white beans, and naturally the requisite greens. All is served together in a bowl.
The traditional means of setting the table with mole verde is a far cry from its contemporary presentation and balance. Yet one is not superior to the other.
Cultural and Regional Variation in Green Mole Recipes
Consider the state of Oaxaca’s historical development, its diverse climatic regions, and the isolation of many of its 16 cultures from one another for literally millennia.
Some green mole ingredients are native to Oaxaca, while others were introduced by the conquistadors. But the Spanish did not readily invade all areas of Oaxaca, because of regional isolation. Accordingly, many mole verde ingredients remained constant for centuries --- locally grown herbs, spices, vegetables and proteins.
Mole verde using Pacific seafood tastes different from a recipe with chicken. An ingredient list containing European introduced pork, cumin, and other foodstuffs not known to Oaxaca in pre – Hispanic times, inevitably results in a different culinary experience.
Mole verde made with ingredients from a stifling, humid coastal region is decidedly different from that made with ingredients from a cool mountainous area. And while in the 21st century there is availability throughout virtually all of Oaxaca, of every ingredient used in each mole verde recipe, local populations often do not use those different ingredients, for two reasons. Firstly, recipes are passed from generation to generation, without alteration, especially in more isolated communities. Secondly, the cost of importing foreign ingredients is often prohibitive for those of modest means – even trucking from a different region of the state. And why bother?
The Solution for Those Wanting to Experience Mole Verde
There are a variety of ways one can try mole verde:
1. While visiting Oaxaca, take a class from Chef Pilar’s Casa de los Sabores Cooking School, requesting her mole verde menu.
2. Try mole verde in a downtown Oaxaca restaurant. But mole verde is not a mole which does well prepared institutionally, as compared to mole negro, for example.
3. Get out of the city, into the central valleys, or districts such as The Mixe or Cañada, and dine at tiny eateries in search of mole verde; it will be homemade, not commercialized
4. Ask an urban Oaxacan or a villager to prepare mole verde for your family, of course for a fee. The cultural experience will enrich.
5. Try Esperanza Chavarría Blando´s mole verde recipe, reproduced below.
Mole Verde Recipe of Esperanza Chavarría Blando
(reproduced with permission of her Estate)
· ½ kilo frijoles blancos (small while beans)
· 1 clove garlic
· ¼ onion
· 2 t salt
· 1 kilo pork spine OR a combination of pork leg or butt with pork ribs (if you can find pork spine, feel free to add a bit of pork leg for more meat)
· 2 large garlic clove
· ¼ large onion
· 2 t salt
· 2 large garlic clove
· ¼ large onion
· 3 cloves
· 3 whole allspice nuggets
· 12 green tomatoes
· 9 serrano chiles *
*Buy extra. Heat depends on the time of year harvested. Cooler weather means less potent!
· 1/2 kilo masa
· 3 leaves hierba santa
· 12 leaves epazote
· 1 bunch cilantro
· 1 small bunch parsley
Beans: Clean beans, checking for any grit or tiny stones. Soak overnight and cook with the stipulated garlic, onion and salt the following day until beans are soft, or cook in a pressure cooker for ¾ to one hour without soaking.
Meat: Cook meat in water with the garlic, onion and salt, covered, for 20 minutes or until soft.
Spice Mixture: While meat and beans are cooking, roast garlic cloves and onion on griddle or outdoor grill and set aside. In blender, mix cloves, allspice, halved green tomatoes, serrano chilies and grilled garlic and onion, with ½ cup water. Blend thoroughly. Strain mixture into a large deep pan with oil already well heated. Add about a cup of water to blender and re-blend in order to completely empty the blender jar, and strain this final mixture into the pan as well. Allow green spice mixture to simmer 10 -15 minutes.
Add 2 cups of pork broth into the above green mixture; continue simmering.
Mix half of the masa with ¾ cup of water in blender. Add this masa mixture through a strainer to the simmering spice mixture. Stir so masa doesn’t form balls. For a thicker green mixture, mix more masa with water in blender and add through a strainer.
Herbs: Place herbs in blender with enough water to blend; blend well.
Add meat (without the onion and garlic) to the green sauce, then the strained beans, and finally the blended herbs.
Salt to taste.
*The sauce should be bright green; if not, blend small equal amounts of the herbs once again, and add to the mole.
Serve in individual bowls accompanied by tortillas and limes.
Alvin Starkman operates Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast (www.oaxacadream.com), and together with chef Pilar Cabrera Arroyo, leads culinary tours in Oaxaca (www.oaxacaculinarytours.com). Casa Machaya boasts the comfort and service of a four star Oaxaca hotel, with the personal touch of the best of bed & breakfast Oaxaca.