* Doña Mari’s Black Mole
Whenever someone asks me what my favorite Mexican dish is, I have a hard time giving an answer. I can, however, name my absolute favorite mole: the mole negro (black mole) de Oaxaca, a mole so complicated I’ve yet to make it. Sadly, the last few times I’ve had it, it has not been very popular with my stomach. Something about it just does not sit right with me. Because I have come to the sad realization that I may not be able to eat it again, today’s post is not on how to make mole negro de Oaxaca (you can go here to find a recipe I trust), but about a little corner eatery in Mexico City where yesterday I ate the best mole negro I have had.
About 6 blocks off the General Anaya metro station in Mexico City (line 2, for ye curious) sits a small corner eatery called El rincón oaxaqueño (The Oaxacan corner). It sits 14 people max (three four-tops and a douce). Behind the counter, Doña Mari, the owner, her daughter and an assistant, serve all kids of Oaxacan delicacies. On one side, another lady makes quesadillas with freshly-made tortillas and Albino, the waiter, juggles the rest. The big titles in the menu are the tlayudas, the big, flat tortillas and their toppings, cecina (a salty thin steak) and, of course, mole negro.
Like any good fonda (food stand/boarding house) owner, Doña Mari treats her loyal customers like family. My cousin Lorena dines there frequently, so as soon as we sat down, Doña Mari came to greet us and to inquire who I was. Once it was established that I was the favorite cousin, forget it, I was in. Also in full care-taker mode, Doña Mari would not take “no” for an answer when told her I wasn’t planning on having soup before my main meal. How? Why don’t you want any? It’s lunch time! You should have a little! Of course I ended up saying yes. After my chicken and vegetables soup (which I accompanied with some of those freshly made tortillas) came my mole negro, in the form of enchiladas. Three tortillas, quickly dipped in oil, wrapping shredded chicken and topped with a sea of mole negro, cream and onion slivers. With a side of white rice.
I cannot begin to tell you what that mole was. A creamy consistency that came not from the heavy cream topping but from the layer upon layer of ingredients blended together. You could taste the smokiness and kick (without it being overbearing) of the roasted peppers, the hint of chocolate and the spices, the sweetness of the banana. Lorena, who had ordered a plate of chilaquiles, asked to have “a bit” of the mole. She ended up stealing much more.
Doña Mari checked on us twice, and we talked about kids (we were sitting with my niece) and about the difficulty of having a shop in this economy, of the hectic days and of the slow ones, such as yesterday, where the rain kept people away.
Places like Doña Mari’s are exactly the places where I love to eat most. Yes, fancy restaurants are great and molecular gastronomy has its beauty, but mom and pop restaurants, where someone is cooking like their grandma was cooking ages ago, and where the tortilla is made fresh in front of you, are my most beloved treasures. The mole negro de Oaxaca seems to not return my deep love, so I may not be able to eat it again (or perhaps not in a full-fledged dish). Yet, if this mole negro was the last one for me, I am happy that it was the best I’ve ever had and that it was in a place that was as humble and warm as a good home.