Day 37: Oaxaca

Oaxaca, the southwestern costal state in Mexico is also known as land of the seven moles ("mo-lay") because each of the state's seven geographic regions produce their own unique flavor of this savory sauce.  With more than 4,000 archeological sites and a history that begins with Zapotec and Mixtec natives and later intertwined with Aztecs and Spanish colonists, Oaxaca is a top food and culture destination in Mexico.

Memela, a traditional street food made from masa pancake and stuffed with pork and cheese.

Memela, a traditional street food made from masa pancake and stuffed with pork and cheese.

Xochi and the Land of the Seven Moles

Tlayudas: traditional Oaxacan street food served with mole rojo.

When we saw that Houston was welcoming a new addition to in international food scene, Oaxacan food, we had to go.  To make matters better, Xochi (pronounced "So-chi") is run by six-time finalist and the 2017 winner of the James Beard Award, Hugo Ortega.  Xochi flaunts a modern Oaxacan minimalist vibe which compliments this upscale eating experience.   Xochi offers a number of traditional and street food dishes, including chapulin (a famous Oaxacan dish made with grasshoppers), which are complimented by the famous Oaxacan moles.  They serve many dishes that qualify as street food, but are artistically composed.

Molotes De Xoxocoltlan: Many of the dishes are served with chaupulin (grilled grasshoppers), a traditional snack (click to zoom).

We were able to try a number of dishes which all had different moles.  This will lead outsiders to ask what is mole.  Mole is a thick stewed sauce that is slow cooked and includes complex ingredients, ranging from chocolate to pineapple depending on the mole.  The seven Oaxacan moles are Amarillo, Coloradito, Rojo, Negro, Verde, Chichilo, and Manchamantel.  The New Yorker recently send Each of these moles has a distinct flavor and culinary application.  Although moles do not have have the same ingredients, they are often thickened (or started with) ground seeds or nuts and then other flavors are mixed in.

If you want to know more about moles, check out the Chefs Table episode (available one netflix) with Enrique Olvera.