Puebla is perhaps the only place in Mexico that celebrates Cinco de Mayo
. The day honors the Mexican Army's victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
For this Cinco de Mayo, I wanted to share more about the food in Puebla, which is some of the best in Mexico. All of these photos come from my own archives, meaning I took them myself.
Maybe someday we'll see some of these snacks on American Cinco de Mayo menus.
#1: Poblano Chalupas
Poblano chalupas are crispy tortillas doused in red and green salsa, and drizzled with hot fat. They're simple and delicious.
Puebla is a mecca for snacky sandwiches, each made with its own particular kind of bread. This crispy-fried pelona, stuffed with shredded meat, came from an antojitería downtown.
#3: Crystalized Fruit
Crystalized fruit, cooked for days in sugar and calcium hydroxide, is a typical dessert across Mexico. This stand -- outside a market in Atlixco, Puebla -- offered a particularly stunning array of colors. From left to right, the vendor is selling sweet potatoes, candied squash (calabaza en tacha), tejocotes, figs, and chilacayote squash.
#4: The Nuns
You can't talk about food in Puebla without mentioning the nuns
, who had a huge influence on the city's culture and gastronomy. This is the kitchen from the ex-convent of Santa Mónica, where chiles en nogada were supposedly invented.
The nuns are also credited with inventing...
#5: Mole Poblano
Mole poblano is Puebla's signature sauce, which contains, depending on the recipe, chocolate, dried chiles, raisins, plantain, toasted or burned tortillas and spices, among dozens of other ingredients. (Obligatory Mole Police addendum: while mole poblano contains chocolate, not all moles do.)
Mole pots are still made by hand in Puebla. At this workshop in an older section of downtown, men load the pots into large kilns.
Neighborhood mills like this one in Cholula still exist in Puebla. Residents can grind pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, nuts and spices for pipián, a typical mole dish.
#6: Fresh Baked Bread
Bread, as I mentioned before, is hugely important in Puebla, tracing back to the Spaniards who grew some of Mexico's first wheat there. Vendors still sell all sorts of bread daily. Bonus points if you can tell me what each of these breads are called.
Tlacoyos, a popular street snack in Mexico City, are a big deal in Puebla, where they're often stuffed with alberjón, a type of garbanzo bean. On the streets they're cooked on the comal until crisp. And they may not be called tlacoyos, either; some regions refer to them at tlayoyos.
Molotes are oval-shaped balls of masa, stuffed with cheese, huitlacoche
, potato or other fillings, and fried. They are the bomb.
Perhaps Puebla's most famous sandwich, exported to cities across the States, cemitas popularly contain a fried, breaded steak topped with a tangle of cheese, chipotle or jalapeño strips and avocado. The bread is also very important -- my favorite kind, sold at the Puebla market stand above, is slightly sweet and crunchy.
#10: Chiles en Nogada
Traditionally offered in July through September only, the baroque chiles en nogada
-- comprising a chile stuffed with sweet-and-savory meat -- is one of my favorite Mexican dishes. (Again, thank the nuns.)
Happy Cinco de Mayo.