The International Mole Festival in Puebla: Day 1

Chilayo, a Pueblan mole made from sesame seed, red jalapeño, garlic, onion, tomato and white beans.

I’m in Puebla for the next two days, attending the city’s first International Mole Festival.

Several chefs from the U.S. and Mexico — including Rick Bayless, Marcela Valladolid, Patricia Quintana, Monica Patiño and Daniel Ovadía — have been invited to talk about mole, its history and their experience with Mexican cuisine. Plus there’s a tasting of moles and regional cuisine from all around Puebla.

So far I’ve been really impressed with both the depth of the presentations, and the food. Yesterday Patricia Quintana and Eduardo Osuna talked about what exactly constituted a mole, and how it’s deeply tied to Mexican ritual and tradition. Marcela Valladolid talked about her struggles and successes in being a bicultural chef and ambassador for Mexican food in the United States. Mark Bittman put Mexican food and its home-cooking traditions in a global context, and Rick Bayless gave a speech about what drew him to mole in the first place.

The coolest thing, to me, was being surrounded by so much passion for Mexican cuisine. I wanted to jump up out of my chair and pump my fist at a few points. “Yes! Let’s tell the world that Mexican food is not nachos and burritos! Let’s all talk about our first mole experiences!”

I told Crayton last night that I felt like I was among my people.

The round-table discussion that closed out the festival's inaugural day: (L-R) Mark Bittman, Patricia Quintana, Rick Bayless, Carlos Zorrilla and Marcela Valladolid

I’ve mentioned before that Mexican food is so regional, and so closely tied to local communities that it’s almost impossible to try regional foods without visiting the pueblos yourself. During yesterday’s mole tasting, the organizers had gathered cooks from about a dozen municipalities all around Puebla.

These women doled out specialties from their towns: moles, enchiladas, smoked pork ribs, cemitas, molotes, cheese-filled breads, chalupas, salsa with local hormigas.

Visitors not only got to watch the food cook — a big bonus for me, a girl who melts at the sight of a pot of bubbling mole — but we also got to meet the women who made it, and ask questions about their recipes.

A molera serves mole poblano during yesterday's tasting at the International Mole Festival in Puebla

The sun reflecting off a bubbling pot of mole.

Enchiladas de mole poblano. Love the radishes on top.

Kneading masa by hand for tlayoyos, a type of tlacoyo from Tlatlauqui, Puebla

A tlayoyo filled with beans (alberjón) and ground-up avocado leaf

The taste of this baby, cooked until crisp on a clay comal, made me want to drive 2 hours to Tlatlauqui to eat more.

Frying up molotes -- a masa fritter typical of Puebla -- on a wood-fired grill.

A molote with a drizzle of chilayo, a type of Pueblan mole. This one came from Yohualichan, northeast of Puebla city.

Some of Puebla's famous cheese-filled breads.

Pan de Zacatlán

The Mole Festival ends today, with another tasting (is it possible to top yesterday?) and talks from various Poblano and Mexico City chefs and researchers.

I’ve already made my plans to go back to some of the smaller towns, and eat my way through them.

13 Responses to “The International Mole Festival in Puebla: Day 1”
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