Puebla is frequently referred to as the gastronomy capital of Mexico by many Mexicans. As a result, it was a priority for me to experience. Its cuisine is the result of a strong culinary heritage, a wide variety of spices, and delicious dishes and sweets.
Mole is one of the state’s most important dishes and has become famous worldwide. My very favorite is the chiles en nogada (stuffed peppers bathed in walnut sauce), which is usually prepared between June and September. The legend that accompanies this dish is that the nuns created it to honor General Agustin de lturbide by mixing indigenous and mestizo ingredients, such as chili peppers, castilla walnuts and pomegranate seeds. Experiencing this dish is worth the trip to Puebla.
Other foods Puebla you might want to try are the gorditas, chalupas, el pipian and maguey worms. Plus, they have a colorful selection of pastries, sweets, and bakeries and a street devoted to them including the candy shops. Some of the more popular sweets include tortitas de Santa Clara; jamocillos de mazapan and goat’s milk; and the vanilla, pineapple and coconut yams.
It was my understanding that Oaxaca was “home” to the original Mole. And even though Oaxaca has seven different varieties including “mole negro,” Puebla’s is different and lays claim to having the first mole kitchen in one of its museums and is renown for its varieties of mole.
I find the history of mole and ingredients intriguing. I had seen some women making it in Oaxaca a few years ago and was eager to attend the cooking school offered by Mesones Sacristia in Puebla and learn how to make mole.
I’ve attended many cooking schools, classes, demonstrations, etc. and Executive Chef Alonso Hernández leads the small hands-on classes with comfort and ease. His English is very good, a wonderful sense of humor, and is a fine teacher. He takes great pride in having you understand and learn Mexican cooking. There is also a translator to explain subtleties as you learn the most traditional Pueblan and Mexican dishes. You’ll also learn about most kind of chiles, by using pre-Hispanic and home-made cooking techniques in Mexico. The goal of the school is to share culinary secrets and have attendees have a memorable and wonderful time.
Our class started off by walking from the hotel to the market to shop for the ingredients for our mole. As we picked out Mulato chilies, Ancho chilies, and Pasilla chilies, Chef Alonso explained the various chilies and the level of capsaicin the makes them hot.
The market was overwhelming with all of the fresh produce. I couldn’t help myself, I purchased a stick of cinnamon that was 1 ½ inches of diameter and approximately 14 inches long. I’d never seen cinnamon sticks so large and aromatic. It did wonders for my suitcase.
Chef wanted us to experience a fresh sandwich from the market. I shared one and my half was huge. The number of sandwiches this fresh counter turns out is amazing.
After we fished our marketing, we went back to the hotel kitchen for our class.
If I had more time in Puebla, I would have gone back to the market and spent several hours. It was fascinating.
The ingredients for the Mole:
o 3 pieces Mulato chile
o 3 pieces Ancho chile
o 3 pieces Pasilla chile
o 500 g tomatoes
o 200 g onions
o 2 cloves garlic
o 2 pieces Ibarra Chocolate (dark)
o 1 tortilla
o 100 g sugar
o 100 g salt
o 100 g powdered chicken stock
o 5 cups of water
o 1 plantain
Serve with chicken or turkey
In the kitchen we downed latex gloves, removed the stem and seeds from the mulato, ancho and pasilla chilies. Then we fried them until obtaining a crispy texture.
Next we roasted tomatoes, onions and garlic on a comal (grill).
We boiled the chilies and vegetables in water until the chilies became soft which took about 10 minutes.
We ground all the boiled ingredients together with its own broth and strained to make a sauce.
The next step was to peel the plantain and cut it lengthwise in four pieces. Then we fried it until golden brown.
We roasted the tortilla directly over the flame until it was black and crispy on both sides.
Much to my surprise, we put the burned tortilla, plantain and 1 cup of water in a blender to blend then strain.
We then blended the peppers and vegetables (2 batches) and covered with a towel to let steam.
Fry the vegetable sauce in lard and let boil.
Add the plantain/tortilla sauce and let boil a few more minutes.
Season to taste with (about 1 teaspoon) salt, sugar, and powdered chicken stock. Simmer for 45 minutes.
Sauce will keep in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days.
I was shocked to discover the prices under $100 for a three day course with three cooking classes of three hours each and three delicious recipes. The instruction includes participation and naturally tasting.
They also offer a seven days, six nights class with six nights of lodging at one of the lovely Mesones Sacristia properties and a fifteen hour Basic Mexican Cooking Course in English or Spanish. Your breakfasts are included as well as dinner in various Puebla restaurants. You also will have a guided tour and other treats.
The Meson Sacristia de la Compania and Meson Sacristia de Capuchinas are small, traditional hotels that are part of Hotels con Angel, and belong to Mexico Boutique Hotels Group. They all offer a small number of rooms in historical buildings with unique architecture. The are in residences over three centuries old that have been remodeled and renovated for the guests comfort and comfort in the historical and fascinating state of Puebla, Mexico.
Experiencing this school as well as Puebla itself, will be a memorable experience. I hope to return some day and take Norm or Brenda with to see all the city has to offer. The good food is just a small part of this culturally rich area. Like all other areas I’ve had the opportunity to visit, it is the warmth of the people that will draw one back to Puebla.
It is also known as the City of Angels and a World Heritage Site with over 5,000 colonial buildings most being built during the 16th century. Puebla is known for its crafts including Talavera pottery, figurines, bark paper paints and onyx and marble sculptures. Along with many other fine crafts, the traditional markets and beautiful plazas are where you will find the artisans sell their products.
Puebla, Mexico’s 5th largest city is accessible. I flew into Mexico City and took a bus (modern Mercedes) from the airport for 90 minutes and arrived with ease.
For more information on the cooking school email: [email protected].
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