Oaxaca's famous 20th de Noviembre Market is an impressive building in the centre of town with rows of cheese stores, bakeries, hot chocolate, and numerous small family run restaurants.
On my first visit to the market for lunch, I met Candeleria the owner of La Sereña. The first thing I learned was how many different types of moles there are! Outside of Mexico, mole is usually associated with chocolate mole (or mole negro), but there are six other traditional kinds: red, yellow, green, coloradito, chichilo and finally manchamantel. See this food republic link for more info on each type. With the help of two kind Spanish speaking friends from the United States, I organized an informal cooking class and two days later, Candeleria taught my friend Ana and I how to make mole verde from start to finish.
Arriving at her store in the morning, we bought all the ingredients from the market, almost exclusively fresh herbs and vegetables, we prepped the food and brought it to an outside store to grind. Mole verde is one of the spicier moles, and while it was being ground-up, everyone, including the workers, people walking by on the street, Candeleria and of course me, were coughing and sneezing as the sauce was being ground. Finally, we added masa to the mole verde and brought it to a boil - voila!
Ana and I were impressed at how much food was being prepared in such a small space, Candeleria and her two young sous-chef's were working quickly to prepare a variety of dishes in a space no larger 12 square feet! The mole verde was served with the spine of pork and white beans and the meat nearly fell off the bone.
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While Ana and I were learning to make mole verde, the chef from the Mayordormo, the go-to chocolate store in Oaxaca was eating lunch at Candeleria’s restaurant and he invited us over to learn how to make tamales with mole negro - How could we say no!
Making tamales was actually a bit more complicated than I imagined: prep the masa (fresh ground corn) in a food processor with butter/lard, cook the chicken and tear it into strip, make the mole from a paste (with up to 42 ingredients), broth and actual chocolate, soak the plantain leaves, fold it all into a package, and then finally steam the tamales for an hour. The final product was incredibly delicious, and sells for 15 pesos, less than $1.50 Canadian.