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The Good, the Great and the Ugly   Leave a comment

The Mexican state of Oaxaca is well- known for its mole: seven types, although there are likely more. San Cristobal de las Casas in the state of Chiapas doesn’t have as many recognized variations, but certainly holds its own with its interpretations of this traditional dish.

I sampled three versions while in San Cris. Mole (mohlay) doesn’t photograph well. It’s a thick sauce the consistency of pancake batter and usually the color of tree bark: dark, except when it’s not. It can also be green, or red or orange. Green is especially unphotogenic, usually because of its base which can be tomatillos, spinach, pumpkin seeds or some combination of the above.

TierrAdentro mole

TierrAdentro mole

TierrAdentro’s version was bland. Served over chicken with a scoop of rice on the side, it was difficult to discern any distinct flavors.

At Casa Maya across from the main square, I opted for traditional mole. It had all the right nuances, but the problem was this was my third mole meal and followed the exceptionally prepared adaptation at Tierra y Cielo.

Casa Maya Mole

Casa Maya Mole

There, Marta Zepeda, an award-winning chef, puts an upscale spin by serving mole over poached chicken medallions and fried plantains. The depth of flavor was a complicated dance of numerous ingredients somehow following the same rhythm. Chocolate, sesame seeds, chiles, tomatillos, garlic, perhaps cinnamon, and much more contributed to what is now best I’ve ever eaten. Some say cocoa isn’t an ingredient, but we checked with our server just to confirm.

Tierra y Cielo Mole

Tierra y Cielo Mole

I could easily have had mole my entire visit and I know someday I’ll try Oaxacan mole to compare, but for now I am satisfied with Zepeda’s.

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