Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oaxacan Cuisine

The state of Oaxaca is large and mountainous with numerous microclimates. It’s terrain and history have preserved many indigenous ethnicities making for a number of regional variations in the cuisine. Despite the differences there are a number of things everyone makes, just differently

Oaxacan cuisine is most famous for it’s moles. In fact Oaxaca is called “the land of the seven moles,” with six being undisputed; mole negro, colorado, coloradito, verde, amarillo, and chichilo. Some consider the seventh mole, manchamanteles (ortablecloth stainer), a chicken and fruit stew although Oaxaca claims its as a mole. We won’t try to go furthur into moles here but Oaxacan cuisine is more than moles. A short list of specialties would have to also include tejate, atole, memelas, tlayudas, chapulines, huitlacoche, quesillo, tamales, sopa de frijol negro, sopa de flor de calabaza, mezcal, agua de jamaica, tuna, zapote negro, chico zapote, tejocotes, chocolate, guanabana, escabeche, gusanos de maguey, pulque, hoja santa, chepil, … opps not such a short list after all.

Taking a cooking class is one way to introduce yourself to all this. Oaxaca has more different options than one would want to list. Although the steps and order to preparing some dishes can be a bit different than other cuisines the basics remain constant. The biggest differences come from the different ingredients. Knowing and understanding them remains fundamental. So first you need to get introduced which means a trip to the market. Any good cooking class needs a market tour with tastes along the way. It will be a bit hectic with little time for note taking. So do some homework, pay attention, ask questions, and taste everything regardless of how unfamiliar it looks. Anyway you won’t learn to cook like abuela (grandmother) in a day class.

The photos come from a compilation of classes from Susana Trilling of Season of My Heart, Nora Valencia of La Casa de Mis Recuerdos, Osca at Casa Crespo, Reyna Mendoza at Casa Sagrada, and Iliana of El Naranjo. There are many others.

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