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A Cooking Lesson

One of my fellow students and I arranged through the language school for a cooking lesson to learn how to make red mole.  When most people think of mole, they think of mole negro, the black mole made with chocolate.  That is the most famous, and is perhaps the most complicated to make, but Oaxaca boast at least 7 moles.  Oaxaca, because it is still a heavily indigenous region, boasts a distinctive and justifiable famous quisine.  Chefs from all over the world come to learn the secrets of Oaxacan cooking. 

Sra. Serrano took us to her home by taxi and put us to work in her well equipped, airy kitchen.  She spoke to us only in Spanish, but between her slow, clear speech, her gestures, and what I've learned so far, I had hardly any problem understanding her.  This was a very complicated dish which took more than 3 hours to make and eat.  The dish was served with chicken, the broth of which was a major ingredient, and a Mexican sauteed rice and vegetables, kind of like risotto.  She said the dish went well with pork, fish and shrimp as well and for a vegetarian version, was great with white beans.  I asked her about beef and she said no.  In her opinion, one should never serve beef with mole.  Just cooked plain and seasoned with salt.  (I had had several moles with beef in local resturants, so her view must not be universal.)

The ingrediants were two kinds of chili, tomatoes, garlic, onions, pepper corns, cloves, sesame seeds, cinnamon stick, and orgegano.  Our hostess also had a secret family ingrediant, dried bread crumbs.  The dry ingrediants were ground with a mortar and pestle.  With a smile, Sra. Serrano said this was the only way to get the most authentic taste.  But she said she knew that at home we would lose patience and use a blender.  I sensed a challenge. 

There are so many wonderful places and things to eat in Oaxaca.  Some of the best food is found on the street around the market places, and the one time I tried that on a class excursion to the market bore that out.  Most resturants frequented more by locals than tourists has a lunch special, a comida corrida, which features  a soup or pasta first couse, a meat or cheese main course and a dessert.  A cold beverage and coffee is included, all for $3-5!  So I've tried a lot of local dishes that way.

I've come to really enjoy the famous Oaxacan hot chocolate with cocoa from the region, made with cinnamon, almonds, sugar and either water or milk.  I perfer the con agua version because I think the chocolate is darker and richer.  They have some weird and surprisingly delicious ice cream flavors here, like burnt milk, corn, and one called Oaxacan Kiss which has chilies and watermelon. 

Luckily, theres not much junk food here and I walk a whole lot, not having a car.  And sometimes, I just want a tuna sandwich and some fruit in my apartment.   

3 comments (Add your own)

1. Kathleen Garcia-Horlor wrote:
Yes, no beef with mole has been my experience as well. It is usually a different sauce that goes with beef although it seems very similar. It seems you are having a great time. We miss you but I am sure you will enrich our lives greatly with your experience. :) You are quite the buzz. Yesterday at the Intercultural workshop, people were wondering how you were because there hadn't been a blog entry for a week. Also, we were worried because of the mudslide in Oaxaca, wondering if it was close to you.

Sun, October 3, 2010 @ 6:56 PM

2. Arvid wrote:
The mudslide was a days drive away, but all the rains have damaged some bridges around her.

I haven't blogged this week cause there was mostly just school. But this weekend has been eventful and interesting and I plan to blog some more about that.

Sun, October 3, 2010 @ 7:07 PM

3. Dave Spierman wrote:
Oaxaca is one of our favorite places, having spent a several weeks there during a 4 month journey many years ago. We always enjoyed the comida served in a small restaurant on the zocalo. The owner of this particular place always looked after our well being , warned us of pickpockets, etc. My favorite dish there are tamales wrapped in banana leaves. Yum

Fri, October 8, 2010 @ 11:58 AM

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