The Mole Festival in San Pedro Atocpan

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October 24, 2012Travel4 Comments

Mounds of artistically arranged mole paste at the Feria Nacional del Mole in San Pedro Atocpan, Mexico.

San Pedro Atocpan is a little town about an hour southeast of Mexico City, nestled in the foothills near Milpa Alta. It’s actually closer to the state of Morelos than it is to the Centro Histórico, which is sort of crazy. I like it there. The town is quiet and charming, and some of the streets are cobblestone. I kid Crayton — or am I kidding? — that I want a country house there someday.

Every year, San Pedro hosts a sprawling, colorful mole fair on the outskirts of town. This year I was finally able to go. The fair is worth a visit if you’re in the city and don’t mind the hike getting down there.

San Pedro Atocpan’s Mole Fair

We arrived at 10 a.m., a little too early for the weekday. Most stands weren’t open and the morning air felt too chilly for my flimsy sweater. Within an hour, things were bustling. Vendors sold clay pots, wool sweaters (bought one), embroidered wool ponchos and jackets, and a hearty, nutty drink called atole de novia, a mix of toasted red corn, cinnamon, hazelnuts and almonds. (I scribbled down the recipe and hope to give it a try once I’m in town for more than four days.)

The mole lay in another huge section of the fair. (Tip: definitely bring walking shoes, because the roads are dirt and uneven.) Young people held out tastes of mole paste on plastic spoons, and plastic tubs overflowed with mole paste arranged in various artistic formations. One tub of mole was studded with what looked like Jordan almonds, and I asked the woman whether they came with the paste. She looked at me, sort of annoyed. “It’s a decoration.”

More than a dozen pop-up sort of restaurants sold a variation on the same thing — quesadillas made on blue, green and pink colored tortillas; mole with turkey, and in some cases, chile-rubbed rabbit. The stands’ rustic, open-air look reminded me of the ones you see crossing over the mountains into Puebla.

My friend Ruth and I ate breakfast and wandered through the fair, buying a few goodies but no mole since I already have too much paste at home. It was a great way to spend an afternoon.

How to Get There

The Feria Nacional Del Mole runs in San Pedro Atocpan through this Sunday, Oct. 28.

It’s located on the edge of San Pedro, just off the main road, on the right-hand side if you’re driving south. (You can’t miss it.) Driving there is easiest, but you could also take the Tren Ligero to Xochimilco and get a cab. My friend who lives in San Pedro told me yesterday (10-24-12) that the Milpa Alta pesero is temporarily out of service, because it struck a pedestrian a few weeks ago.

To drive, you’d want to arrive to Xochimilco and take a right on the road that says “Milpa Alta” just after the Centro Deportivo de Xochimilco. From there you’d follow the Milpa Alta & Mole Fair signs all the way to San Pedro. Google Maps also has accurate directions.

One of the dudes selling mole paste

Morning at the mole festival.

We had a squash-flower quesadilla for breakfast.

Nopal en escabeche, a warm, tangy cactus salad that we also had for breakfast.

Spotted on the way out: chunks of cooked agave. Yum.

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4 Responses to “The Mole Festival in San Pedro Atocpan”
  1. Norma-Platanos, Mangoes and Me!

    How I wish I had a little bit of everything. I love when you share your outings….

  2. Louise

    Looks amazing – but how do you use the pastes from the market? I am used to making my own mole – hours of course – but haven’t bought it from market for fear of not cooking it right… You seem to know!!!! Enlighten me please

    • Lesley

      Hi Louise: All you need to do with the pastes is reconstitute them with chicken broth. (Or veggie broth, or water, depending on you’re a vegetarian or what you have on hand.) I normally put about half the paste in a bowl and whisk it with some broth, until it’s about the consistency of a gravy. Then I pour that into a deep skillet or Dutch Oven, depending on the quantity. (You don’t need to grease the pan because the mole already has enough fat in it.) Once the mole is in the pot, I whisk in the rest of paste and add more broth as I go, cooking over medium heat. Once the sauce has warmed and reached the desired consistency, I add my meat or veggies and cook for a few minutes, and then serve them on the plate. Super quick and it tastes like you slaved over the stove. :-)

      Generally they say 250g of paste feeds four people. But you can ask the vendor when you buy it what he/she recommends.

  3. Lisa K

    Great pictures that illustrate how wonderful Mexico really is.

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