Oaxaca City, Mexico: A Mole Tour

Check out this article I found on Bon Appetit.com:

It's said that in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, there are seven moles—rich, complex sauces that can contain dozens of ingredients—considered by some to be the acme of Mexico's celebrated cuisine. But a visit to the region proves that mole actually comes in infinite varieties—from the deep, dark mole negro to the zesty mole verde. Like mole itself, the charming city of Oaxaca is a blend of the ancient and the contemporary, the earthy and the sublime, offering endless gustatory pleasures to the hungry traveler.


Fly to Oaxaca nonstop from Houston on Continental Airlines, or fly to Mexico City and catch one of the frequent hour-long flights on Mexicana or AeroMexico.


Casa Crespo is an intimate B&B with two rooms that have been decorated with pre-Hispanic art and paintings by the genteel host, Oscar Carrizosa. He also leads tours to the local Sánchez Pascuas food market (including an introduction to myriad dried and fresh chiles) and cooking classes ($60, including the tour), where you can learn to make his mother's mole negro, or more unusual dishes like caldo de piedra, a spicy seafood soup cooked with hot rocks.
Rooms, $110; Crespo 415; 011-52-951-514-1102; casacrespo.com


  1. El Teatro Culinario
    In the private courtyard of the B&B Casa Crespo, chef José Luis Diaz prepares multi-course dinners (reservations required), transforming the humble flavors of the Oaxacan market into brilliant dishes. A request for mole may yield mole de camarón, a vibrant red sauce made with shrimp shells, or seared grouper with almendrado, a mole made with toasted almonds, capers, olives, and garlic.
    Crespo 415; 011-52-951-514-1102; casacrespo.com
  2. Central de Abasto
    At this sprawling market, you can find all of the ingredients for a good mole—dried chiles, herbs, fruit, vegetables, and the justly famous Oaxacan chocolate, made with cinnamon and almonds. At the popular Mole Oaxaca stall, moles of every description are ground and mixed on the spot.
    Las Casas and Periférico
  3. La Biznaga
    In this restaurant's elegant and airy courtyard, a well-heeled local crowd mixes with tourists over artfully composed plates of contemporary Oaxacan cuisine (they call it cocina mestiza). Here, the moles are fresh and bright—try the tamarind mole with shrimp-stuffed fish, or the guava mole with chicken and plantains.
    García Vigil 512; 011-52-951-516-1800
  4. Santo Domingo Cultural Center
    The center's meticulously designed botanical garden, planted on the grounds of a 17th-century convent, hosts an impressive variety of plants endemic to the state of Oaxaca. After taking the tour, grab a mango doused in lime juice and sprinkled with ground chiles from the vendor outside the entrance.
    Enter at the corner of Reforma and Constitución; 011-52-951-516-7915
  5. Mercado 20 de Noviembre
    Bring your appetite to this market, where lunch counters called comedores serve rustic delicacies, like fluffy tamales stuffed with chicken and mole negro and wrapped in banana leaves.
    On the block bordered by Aldama, Mina, 20 de Noviembre, and García Vigil
  6. Doña Margarita Carmen Empanadas
    Underneath a green tarp on the east side of the street, Doña Margarita Carmen makes exquisite empanadas: delicate, crispy tortillas folded around vibrant, savory fillings: Try the mole amarillo with chicken and hierba santa, a local herb with a complex flavor something like that of tarragon; the vibrant green mole verde with chicken; or zucchini flowers topped with quesillo, the fresh, stringy cheese of Oaxaca.
    Mier y Terán, between Independencia and Hidalgo
  7. Mezcalería Los Amantes
    There's plenty of mass-produced mezcal available in Mexico, but at this shoebox-size bar (owned and beautifully decorated by Oaxacan painter Guillermo Olguín), only the finest artisanal mezcals, rarely seen outside the towns where they're produced, are poured, from traditional green glass bottles.
    Allende 107
  8. Mercado Benito Juárez
    Walk one block south from the serene, shaded town square (called the Zócalo)—this market has everything you'll need to serve a mole feast back home in true Oaxacan style. Look for the four-legged molcajetes, mortars and pestles (good for grinding dried ingredients) decorated with animal faces.
    On the block bordered by Las Casas, Aldama, 20 de Noviembre, and García Vigil

February 2009
Article, pics, illustration via here

No comments: