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Regional Mexican Food - Primer anyone?

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A mini-discussion about Oaxacan foods arose on my home board - TriState and it was suggested GCT board would be a good place to ask the question. I know a very little bit and am hoping some of you will be kind enough to share your knowledge of Mexican food broken down by region: specialties and signature dishes? One of the items brought up was the wide range of Oaxacan Moles and I'd love to learn more about the different types.

Of course I could search the web for days and collect this but believe some of you Mexican food knowledgeable CHers are better sources.

Thanks everyone.

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  1. I am in the middle of writing an introductory essay on Mexican cuisine (about 25 pages or so)... for a website/blog I will launch in 30 to 60 days... once its up I will link it this & the "What is Authentic Mexican Cuisine" post. It will be a couple of years before I produce enough material that will give the readers a really good sense about what Mexican cuisine is all about... but I will try a very brief introduction for you.

    > Mexican regional cuisine.... specialities & signature dishes. Not a simple task.. consider that Oaxaca alone has 7 geographical regions & 15 major ethnicities... when you combine the two you really have something like 30 culinary regions (because if you just look at the Costa Chica region... the cooking varies by town / municipality even though there are broad similarities... access to similar seafood, produce etc., but the cooking techniques of an Afro-Mexican town are different than those in an Afro-Mestizo town, which are different than those in a Nahua town, which are different than those in an Amazugo town etc., The style of cooking will vary in addition to 'special'/distinguishing ingredients.... maybe the Amazugos really dig Iguana & certain wild herbs, while the Afro-Mexicans value casava & boar etc., Overall, Mexico has at least 120 culinary regions (that I can name... but I am just in the infancy of my research).

    > In terms of broad Oaxacan specialties.... Oaxaca is famous for its 7 Moles (a magic number there given the 7 regions)... at the annual Guelagetza delegates from each will present their winners from their "regional" style of Mole... who then prepare lots of batches for all to sample. In practicality... each region in Oaxaca will typically specialize in 2 or 3 of the 7 broad styles. This site has a pretty good intro to the 7 Styles: http://www.go-oaxaca.com/newsletter/t...

    Of course... the description on that site is by a chef from El Naranjo in Oaxaca City... which sites smack in the middle of the Valle de Oaxaca which is an area dominated by Zapotecs... so its going to be a very Zapotec & Valle biased approach. The Mole Amarillo in some Costa Chica towns might feature freshly shucked coconut meat & shell fish broth... and served with a whole grilled fish. So think of the 7 Moles as genres and not specific recipes.

    In general... Moles can be described & categorized by their color... in other words... all Brown moles are more similar to each other.. then they are to a Green mole etc., The color of moles range from White (featuring ingredients like cocoa butter & light colored chiles etc.,) to Very, Very Black (the chichilo darkened with food ash.. i.e., burnt ingredients) and many colors in between including yellow, orange, red, pink, several hues of green, brown... I have even heard of (but not confirmed) about blue / purple moles.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Eat_Nopal

      I always enjoy your essays on Mexican cuisine, admire your passion for it & look forward to your website/blog. Having eaten @ El Naranjo a few years ago, I found the link to the restaurant interesting. Thanks

      1. re: Eat_Nopal

        Thanks Nopal. What a great response. Your knowledge is great and the oaxaca site was a huge help too. I look forward to your website/blog. Now I know where to go with my Mexican cuisine questions.

      2. BTW here is a little piece I did on the regional cusines of Veracruz:

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/430891