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September 9, 2013 at 12:46 PM

Been to Oaxaca? Offer tips to help find the best mole

Little mountains of chilies -- a key ingredient in good Oaxacan mole -- are offered at the Benito Juarez Market in downtown Oaxaca City. (photo by Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

Little mountains of chilies — a key ingredient in good Oaxacan mole — are offered at the Benito Juarez Market in downtown Oaxaca City. (photo by Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

OAXACA CITY, Mexico — OK, the challenge is on. The Mole Challenge.

I’m here for a week, in a place justly famed for its foodie delights, and the one thing Julia Child would have trilled about more than butter if she ever came here is the mole (MOH-lay). So while I’m here — and I have to eat — why not try to pick the best in town?

In the U.S. the chocolate-based mole, mole negro, is most commonly associated with this name. But in fact mole can be a sauce of varied colors and character, from sweet to savory, from black to green or yellow.

However, the negro — a bold, spicy and sweet mix of chocolate, chilies, garlic peanuts and other spices and flavorings — is so distinctive it has become the standard-bearer. It, ahem, puts the olé in mole.

In the public markets here, chilies are sold by the heaping mound. And a local chain of cafes devotes itself to things chocolate. The ingredients just lie in wait for the right chef.

ATTENTION READERS: If you know Oaxaca and want to send me to a favorite restaurant for mole, click on “comments” and let me know soon. The dinner bell is clonging, just like the off-key bell atop the Templo de Santo Domingo that rings every quarter hour over old-town Oaxaca.

Comments | More in Mexico, Trip reports | Topics: molé, Oaxaca, Oaxaca restaurants

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