Thursday, July 05, 2018

Holy Mole; La Fruta Del Diablo

As luck would have it, I am now located in a gastronomy mecca of Mex cuisine.  I braved the evening rain with purple umbrella (thanks LBC) and purple hooded sweatshirt (thanks colorblindness) until I made my way to Fonda de Santa Clara, a local tavern that has a few locations in Puebla.  The talavera tiles and bright blue-and-white walls gave the spot a nice ambiance.  I went for the local specialty mole poblana.  Before I go any further, I need to tell the story of mole poblana which is Puebla's most iconic dish.

The story dates back to around 1697 or so, when the Bishop of Puebla found out that the Viceroy of New Spain was coming to town.  In order to welcome the Virrey, the Bishop implored upon the Dominican order of nuns at the Santa Rosa de Lima monastery to whip up something special.  One industrious and inventive sister, named Sor Andrea de la Asuncion had the gastrodiplomatic spark to grind the chilies in a mortar and pestle with pinches and handfuls of garlic, sesame seeds, almonds, peanuts, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, sugar, anise and other assorted spices.  One of her fellow nuns was so taken with her deft sauce that she broke her vow of silence and exclaimed, "Hermana, que bien mole" (Sister, how well you grind).  Needless to say, the Viceroy was taken with the dish.  So much so that he had the nuns' whole kitchen tiled with Talavera tiles.  Incidentally, Talavera also comes from Puebla but I will save that for a different entry.

But back to my dish.  Out came my mole poblana over a chicken breast with a side of spiced rice.  I took one bite, and proclaimed the glory to mole and to almighty Dios.  It was immaculate.  A perfect mix of sweet and savory with hints of various aforementioned spices and chocolate that coated the chicken.  Each bite brought out an exhortation.  The chicken made the perfect medium to collect the thick chocolate spice sauce, as did the corn tortillas.  It was immaculate.  And for 150 pesos ($7.50), was far more luxurious than the price. I washed it down with an Allende Golden Ale, a good Mexican microbrew.

After dinner, I went to a local bar called La Pasita to read Quixote and Stevenson's Treasure Island.  The bar is named for the local liquor la pasita, which is raisin liquor.  Not bad stuff.  The bar is apparently the oldest in Puebla, and is a funky spot.  Apparently they make the pasita liquor.  It had a sweet flavor as you can imagine, but not overly so.  The aperitif came chilled in a little shot glass with a toothpic of cheese and a raisin in it.  It was a good sip as I poured through Quixote.  I had one more anisado, a shot of anise liquor that helped serve as a digestif after the mole.

My hostel room was empty so I had the room to myself.

I woke up to the hostel breakfast of pancakes (not bad) with local honey, eggs and watermelons squares.

After the morning job peruse, I wandered out for lunch.  I found a hole-in-the-wall spot that had a local specialty called moletes.  Moletes are a kinda-empanada, a half-moon shaped deep-fried pastry made from a mix of corn masa and mashed potatoes.  I had mine filled with tinga, a shredded beef in an adobo sauce.  The mix of mashed potato and corn masa gives it a little lighter flavor, and a little flakier consistency.  Slashed with red and green salsas, it was pretty delicious.  Even more so for 22 pesos ($1.10).

I was still a little peckish after the molete, so I wandered around until I found literally a hole in the wall, or rather a hole in a blue portico.  Some indigenous women had set-up a grill in the portico, and were making milmilletes--long blue corn boat tortillas filled with refried beans, covered with a bandera, a Mexican flag of red and green salsas with white onions and stringy white quesillo.  Best kind of flags, as I prefer this to other forms of gastronationalism and edible nationbranding.  I impressed the ladies as I munched a grilled jalapeno pepper.  They smiled as I told them the phrase someone else had once bestowed on me--"Tienes una cara como un gringo, pero una panza de un Mexicano" (You have the face like a gringo, but the stomach of a Mexican).  Another woman, who couldn't brook the heat said the chilies had the nickname la fruta del diablo.

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