Samantha Eats Savory Mexican Chocolate!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Cousin Samantha is back with her latest entry about savory chocolate used in Oaxacan (Mexican) cooking. She might not like mole (pronounced "Mole-Lay") a lot, but I do! Especially in chicken burritos... Yumm!

Not your ordinary Chocolate! (By Samantha N.)
 (Making Mole)

Oaxaca is well-known for its chocolate. However, the chocolate found there is not of the traditional smooth-bar variety. The undissolved granulates of sugar in the cocoa gives the chocolate a rough and unrefined sandy texture; I could feel the bits of sugar when I bit into it.
Commonly, many people assume that chocolate is a sweet food. However in Latin America, chocolate comes in savory forms too and is incorporated frequently into cooking.  During my stint in Oaxaca, I had the pleasure of tasting chocolate cooked in 3 different ways (including savory styles).

Taste 1:  Chocolate Caliente.  (Hot Chocolate)

My cooking class teacher begins by dissolving blocks of chocolate in water inside a traditional Oaxacan jug called the Jarra and stirs the mixture using a molinillo (whisk). Once the liquid starts to boil, the jug is taken away from the heat and vigorously whisked. This is done by rolling the molinillo between the palms in a back and forth quickly. Seeing her move her hands seemed simple enough. However when I tried it personally, I couldn’t even move the mollinillo as fast her; no doubt, years of mastering the art of frothing pays off, speed-wise. 
Jarra is used specially for making hot chocolate because its shape helps in frothing up hot chocolate while the free movement of the disk around the molinillo (traditionally made of wood) introduces air in the frothing process more easily.
After the frothing is done, the hot chocolate is served in a traditional clay mug and eaten with pan de yema (traditional egg bread). This spongy bread is very dense and soaks the hot chocolate up nicely.
The chocolate tastes mild and not very sweet because it is dissolved solely in water (the chocolate blocks could be dissolved in milk as well). However, just like how biscotti accompanies black coffee, drinking it with pan de yema is very appropriate.

Taste 2:  Champurrado
The cooking method is the same as hot chocolate with the exception of the ingredients used. Fresh corn is blended with water first before the liquid is squeezed from the pulp. Using fresh corn rather to thicken the liquid adds more flavour when compared to corn flour.  
Milk and water are used to dissolve the chocolate blocks in and the drink is flavoured with aniseeds. The taste of champurrado is richer than the simple hot chocolate due the addition of the corn liquid into the drink. In addition, the corn liquid helps to enhance the flavour of the chocolate and it leaves a nice, strong maize aftertaste that lingers in the mouth.

Taste 3: Mole verde
(Mole Negro (darker coloured) and Mole Rojo)
Mole is a type of sauce used in cooking. There are a total of seven different types of mole. I had the opportunity to taste one type.  My host mom made mole verde with chicken for me. She told me that only a small amount of chocolate is used in the process of making mole. Not surprisingly, I could not really distinguish a chocolate taste in the sauce.
Despite mole being a staple in Oaxaca, I did really care for the taste. In my opinion, mole verde tasted like a watery spicy green pea mash. The spiciness was also so empowering that I was downing water with every mouthful of chicken I took.   
Until the next time!


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