There are several cities in Mexico that are known for their food and Puebla is one of them. This city a bit to the east of the capital is included on any good culinary tour and is the land of the famous mole poblano. The word “poblano” refers to a type of pepper, but it also refers to a person or thing from Puebla.
At the Mesones Sacristia Boutique Hotel in the historic center, I and my family took part in a cooking course for a few hours to get an introduction to Poblano cuisine. In a 300-year-0ld mansion where we were also spending the night, we learned how to make several key items:
- Fresh red salsa with chipotle peppers, onions, garlic, and tomatoes
- Fresh green salsa with serrano peppers, onions, garlic, and tomatillas
- Chalupas with shredded beef
- Mole poblano sauce to put over chicken
- Jamaica tea to serve over ice
The salsa making involves roasting everything on a comal, which is a thin, flat cooking surface that’s been used since before the Aztecs to sear things over a flame. The home ones are generally make of cast iron or steel and are made to fit over one burner. We cooked halved tomatoes, tomatillas, onions, chilis, and garlic on here before blending them all together later. (If you want to really go “hand made” for your salsa, you can grind them in a heavy stone molcajete.
All the while, Lizbet explained in fluent English how to prepare each item, how to cook it properly, and what we were going to do next to create the salsas. She taught us how the different dried peppers can impact the taste. She also cautioned us to treat the speeds of the blender like the gears of a car, going up or down gradually. “Otherwise you can burn out the motor of your blender.” Since my wife has burned through four blenders since we’ve been married, this was helpful advice.
After tasting the salsa with chips, being very happy with what we made, we moved on to chalupas, a local staple in both street food and restaurant menus. These are not complicated—they’re basically soft tostadas—but if not prepared correctly they can be a greasy mess.
Last we prepared the mole sauce, which is a longer, more complicated process than the other items. It involves several stages of cooking, ingredients including various dried chili peppers, tomatoes, a sweet plantain, flaming tortillas, chocolate, sugar, and onions. Of course some cooks add more items to this list to get their own special taste. In the end our final mixture simmered for about a half hour, but in some kitchens this can go on all day.
Our final step in this Puebla cooking class was to prepare jamaica tea, which is a staple all over Mexico. This agua fresca is made from hibiscus flowers, which are boiled for a short time with sugar and water, then poured over ice and served cold. Alternately, we learned, you can mix it all together and let it steep overnight, no boiling required.
After all the cooking, we sat down in the antique filled courtyard of the hotel and enjoyed our delicious mole sauce over a tender chicken breast, drinking our jamaica iced tea.
We got a nice folder with all the recipes and some background info on Mexican cuisine. We’re now ready to do some things better and to make fresh salsa more often instead of buying the preservative-filled ones from the store.
If we were more serious cooks, they also offer week-long cooking courses that will really immerse you in many different food types and techniques. See more and reserve at the Meaon Sacristia site or see what others have said on TripAdvisor.
Too book your own custom trip for different areas of Mexico, with memorable culinary experiences along the way, contact Rocio Martinez at Concierge Online Mexico.