Mole & Chilis Poblanos

I figured I should make a post about the food in Puebla, since it’s such an important part of their culture. Pueblans take pride in how spicy their cuisine is—during our orientation, we were warned to always ask how spicy food is before we eat it. If it contains no chili pepper at all, it’s safe. If we’re told that it has chili but isn’t spicy, that means it’s pretty spicy. If they claim it’s just a little bit spicy, we can assume it’s very spicy. And if a native of Puebla considers it very spicy, we should stay far away from it. So far, I haven’t had trouble with the spicy food, but I always ask before I order.

Pueblans really are very proud of their peppers. The poblano chili pepper originated here, and it’s used it so many dishes. To be honest, I’m not sure what makes it different from other peppers; but I wouldn’t say that to anyone from Puebla! One of the most popular forms of poblano is chile rellenos. I’ve actually had chile rellenos in the US, but I haven’t yet tried the poblano twist on it. Chile rellenos consists of a pepper stuffed with just about anything (usually cheese and meat), fried, and covered in sauce. You can find it at just about any restaurant around here!

Puebla also claims (controversially) to be the origin of mole sauce, a dark brown sauce with variations all over Mexico. I had to do a bit of research to figure out what actually goes into mole, and from what I can tell the answer is anything and everything. The base is always chilis, but otherwise it seems like everyone has their own recipe. People add nuts, dried fruit, vegetables, spices, seeds, and even bread. The unique ingredient in mole poblano is chocolate, which apparently gives it a sweet/salty/spicy taste. I’ve been too scared to try it so far, but I know I have to at least taste it before I leave!

Another very popular food is chilaquiles—tortilla chips covered in salsa, cheese, cream, and meat or eggs. This is one of my favorites, and it’s offered just about everywhere. Most people eat it as a breakfast food, but it’s pretty versatile. The salsa can be very spicy, so it’s important to ask before you eat!

On just about every corner in Puebla, you can find tacos. They’re often sold as street food, but there are also plenty of restaurants that specialize in different varieties. I thought I was familiar with tacos, but Puebla proved me very wrong. It took me awhile to learn all the different types of tacos that are popular here, and I still get confused sometimes. First, Pueblans love tacos arabes. These are simply roasted pork served on pita bread—pretty simple. Tacos al pastor are very similar. The meat is pork, but it’s usually marinated with chilis and served on a tortilla. I also see a lot of tacos gringas. These are made with carne al pastor (like tacos al pastor), but also include cheese, pineapple, and salsa. I have trouble keeping them all straight, but according to the locals there’s a huge difference.

I have yet to try all of the Pueblan staples, which is partially because we were told during orientation to avoid street food or risk getting sick. Still, I’m a bit ashamed to have been in Puebla for two months without even tasting the famous mole poblano. I know I’ll get there—I’ve been slowly but surely stepping out of my comfort zone. The other day I even tried chapulines! They weren’t too bad for toasted grasshoppers.

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