You would be grossly mistaken if you thought the only mole (pronounced “mol-lay”) in Mexico was the avocado based guacamole. Far from it. In the part of Mexico we have been visiting, especially in Oaxaca, the Mexicans take their moles very seriously indeed. Essentially a mole is a sauce, which comes in a variety of flavours and colours including black, red, yellow and green. The sauce is typically chocolate and chilli flavoured and also usually contains a fruit, nuts and other spices. The most common is the brown coloured mole poblano. And you find it everywhere – smothered over chicken breasts or on top of enchiladas etc (even if it is not actually specified on the menu, it often appears, like it or not!).
A selection of moles
Another local delicacy is chapulines which you can eat whole, marinated or in salsa form. All well and good perhaps until you realise they are dried grasshoppers! In true “I’m a Celebrity” fashion, we both tried the whole ones which were pretty crunchy but both baulked a little at eating any specimens that were larger than 2 cm in size, although were happy to have them ground into a freshly made salsa. Chapulines are widely available to buy in the markets (nb: they are already dead when you buy them, otherwise that could be quite a challenge). We also tried nopales which are prickly pear cacti: these were often served as a vegetable and were pleasant enough (although I found them to be a little on the gloopy side).
L: Chapulines; R: an over large dish containing pretty much everything including nopales at the back right
Streetfood in Mexico is great and available everywhere: you are literally never more than about 50 metres from a stall selling one or more of the endless varieties of Vitamin T: tortillas (flat thin bread made from corn or wheat), tacos (soft tortillas wrapped around a filling), tostados (a big tortilla chip covered in a range of toppings including avocado, beans, cheese, meat or seafood), tlacoyos (filled corn dough cooked on a griddle), tamales (tortilla dough filled with meat or vegetables and steamed in a corn husk), tortas (a sandwich roll stuffed with meat, beans and avocado) and so on. And all come served with an (optional) helping of chilli sauce, some varieties of which can raise the roof.
L: Tostados; R: Chilaquiles
There are also hundreds of snacks that don’t begin with a “T” including burritos (shredded meat mixed with chilli sauce wrapped in a large tortilla), enchiladas (corn tortilla wrapped
around a filling of chicken, meat or cheese, usually garnished with more sauce and cheese), quesadillas (tortillas folded over a cheese filling), chilaquiles (tortilla chips with chilli sauce, cheese and cream topped with chicken or egg) among others. In fact, the list of antojitos (snacks or literally “little whims”) seems endless and many are variations on a general theme really. Not always the most healthy of options it has to be said and this probably explains why you see so many obese Mexicans.
But as the food is pretty tasty and cheap and a far cry from the TexMex horrors that you generally get in the UK, we’ve found it pretty hard to resist.
It is probably fair to say that we may somewhat have over indulged while eating in Mexico, from opting for a tasting menu in a restaurant called Nomada in San Miguel de Allende to ordering
over-large main courses in Guanajuato that actually defeated us (it’s very rare for us not to lick our plates clean but here the portion sizes were out of control!).
Other specialities we’ve tried include chillis en nogada (large chilli stuffed with ground meat, fruits, nuts and spices covered in a walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds) as well as some delicious and super fresh ceviche (raw seafood marinated in lemon
or lime juice with garlic and chilli). Shortly however we will be back to a more frugal diet of rice and beans in Costa Rica so maybe it’s been ok to make hay while the sun shines in a country which is, after all, a bit of a Foodies’
L: Chillis en nogada; R: Ceviche
A food stall in Mercado Hildalgo in Guanajuato. Absolutely no shortage of “pica mas” sauce here!