Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mole loco

Mole: a recipe for creativity

At some point, my favorite sauce became mole -- but not all mole.

The problem is that mole is something of a generic term that refers to a wide variety of Mexican sauces. For instance, Pico's serves 3 moles, all very different. Pico's mole negro may be the best version of Mole I have found in Houston.

The most common mole here is mole poblano. It typically mixes dozens of ingredients -- almost always a variety of chile peppers, and sometimes dashes of exotic elements like peanuts and chocolate.

Perhaps because of the variety of ingredients, there are an infinite number of mole recipes. For most Mexican chefs, the goal is a mole that is not dominated by any one ingredient. Rather it is a balance, with a flavor all its own.

Mole gone wild

Of course, strange things happen to a dish in America. Many Houston restaurants are pushing the mole envelope, adding more sugar, more peanut butter. For instance, Teala's mole tastes like Thai peanut sauce. It's not bad. But is it mole?

So we all knew what would inevitably happen: someone was going to push the envelope with chocolate.

Cielo Mexican Bistro - Downtown on Main - serves a chocolate mole sauce. Note that the word chocolate is first.

I hadn't noticed mole on the menu. But when I ordered a spinach and sweet potato enchiladas, the waiter said I had a choice of three sauces. One of them was "chocolate mole."

The problem with giving a choice to guests like me is that we don't always make good choices. I chose chocolate mole. For some reason I thought it might work with sweet potatoes.

In fairness, these enchilladas might appeal to some people -- such as people who have a huge sweet tooth. The filling was heavy on sweet potato, and very sweet. The mole was also sweet. Really Sweet. Really Chocolatey.

It tasted like a chocolate rugelach -- or the inside of a chocolate croissant. Only a few slices of raw red onion cut through the overwhelming wave of chocolate and sugar.

This was, without a doubt, the sweetest, and strangest, mole I have tried.

Then the irony. After I pushed the remainder of the dish away, the waiter asked me if I saved room for dessert.

"Dessert? I just ate it."


Anonymous said...

Chocolate is actually one of the traditional ingredients of authentic Mexican mole.

Approachable Art said...

"Dessert? I just ate it."


I'm in love with a good, slow-cooked, complex spicy mole with a teasing hint of chocolate in the background. But chocolate sauce on what are supposed to be savory enchiladas? Pass.

anonymouseater said...

Anonymous -- Yes, as I think I indicated in the post, chocolate is often, but not always, an ingredient in many Mexican moles, such as mole poblano.

But I have never had a "traditional" Mexican mole with anything close to this much chocolate.

Approachable Art -- I agree -- although I'm not sure these enchiladas were even supposed to be "savory."

signage said...

Im in love with the food posted here.

aileen joy said...

Like to eat! like te eat. how about an appetizer there?

Nguyen Duc said...

Good find! It's only 8 am and I'm already hungry for sweetbreads.
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