OK, so a reader in Oaxaca points out that there are a lot more ingredients than chocolate in mole negro. Be that as it may, it’s the chocoholic in me that doesn’t mind eating the same dish several days in a row.
Whether it was for the mole, with a sort of cinnamon shimmer among the coffee-colored pool of creamy goodness, or for the sweet proprietress, who urged me to have a little more after she saw me clean my plate, I got a big crush on Comedor Maria Teresa, one of a score of little sit-down food counters in the Mercado 20 de Noviembre (named for the street it’s on). In between bustling about like a happy free-range hen with plenty of hungry chicks to feed, the proprietress even offered to take my picture after spying me photographing my food. She reminded me of my Aunt Pat from Boise.
The mole was quite good, and the rice here was a step up from the white blight served in some of the fancy restaurants. Not only did it show some natural color, but there were a few things to add more character, including chepil, a wild local herb. My hostess brought a green sprig for me to taste; it was sort of a cross between arugula, maybe, and a weed that used to grow in the woods by Coal Creek when I was 7.
And while some guidebooks and people who’ve learned the hard way may discourage you from eating anywhere but
fancy restaurants in Mexico, Comedor Maria Teresa is far from being a street vendor. The cream-and-blue tile counter was spotless and everyone behind it was better groomed and laundered than I was after four days of travel (but they let me sit down anyway).
What pushes this spot near the top of my Mole Challenge list, besides the happy atmosphere, is the value: 40 pesos for mole negro, or about $2.85 U.S. And with the included stack of tortillas to mop up the sauce, I didn’t need more for dinner.
- Comedor Maria Teresa, inside Mercado de 20 Noviembre, the sky-blue building on the east side of Calle de 20 Noviembre just south of the Templo San Juan de Dios (at Calle Aldama)