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Mole: More than Chocolate
Often an amalgamation of more than 20 ingredients, mole is as complex as it is flavorful. Explore the Mexican staple’s origins and many iterations with Groupon’s introduction.
Though a fixture at parties across America, salsa is not the most celebrated sauce south of the border. That distinction can only be bestowed upon mole, an earthy concoction so complex it’s often cobbled together from upwards of 20 ingredients. Like Indian curries, mole takes on countless forms, but it broadly refers to a thick, brown sauce forged from dried chilies, unsweetened chocolate, and spices and is traditionally served over turkey or other meat. The fiery peppers and the bittersweet touch of chocolate can mystify even the most practiced palates; Philadelphia magazine food critic Trey Popp once likened an encounter with mole negro—an iteration of the sauce commonly found in the States—to “plunging through a column of chili smoke into a cauldron of chocolate-dusted tobacco leaves. It’s as black as sin, as pungent as heartache, as mysterious as redemption.”
The events behind mole’s invention remain unknown, though each origin myth offers a rationale for its unorthodox ingredients. One legend asserts that, while cooking for a visiting archbishop, a Pueblan nun mixed indigenous chilies and herbs with chocolate, a delicacy popularized by Spanish colonists, to symbolize the merging of the two peoples. Another gives culinary agency to a gust of wind sweeping through a kitchen and blowing all attendant ingredients into one bowl, where they stewed fortuitously into a cultural staple. Although its history is as murky as the sauce itself, mole’s significance in modern Mexico is less ambiguous; the dish is such a fixture at special occasions that the saying “ir a un mole”—“to go to a mole”—has come to mean “to go to a wedding.”