Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What is Cinco de Mayo really?

 So today is May fifth... So what?  To a lot of people it is an excuse to have a good time, throw a "fiesta" and imbibe some margaritas.  However I am willing to bet that most people don't know, don't care, or are misinformed about significance of this day.  It is NOT Mexico's independence day.  That falls on September 16th.  Cinco de Mayo (known as El Día de la Batalla de Puebla in Mexico)  is the celebration of the Mexican army unlikely victory over the army of France in the Battle of Puebla.  The funny thing about this holiday is that it is not really a major holiday in Mexico.  It is really just a regional holiday celebrated primarily in the state of Puebla.  You are probably asking yourself why is this history lesson in a food blog.  Well, I figured that since Cinco de Mayo is really about Puebla, why don't we get to know some of the wonderful cuisine from this great state in Mexico.

The most famous dish coming out of the state of Puebla is mole Poblano.  As I have discussed in a previous entry, there is a wide variety of mole sauces in Mexico.  However, mole Poblano is the one that is most distinguished and well known.  It is the prototypical mole sauce everyone imagines when thinking of mole.  This mole typically has a rust red to dark brown color with well over twenty ingredients including several types of peppers, peanuts and most notably chocolate.

Another typical dish of Puebla is the Chiles en Nogada.  This dish consists of a poplano pepper stuffed with meat (picadillo) much like a typical chile relleno.  However, instead of being topped with tomato sauce after being battered and fried, the stuffed poblano is topped with a white walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds.  The green chile, white sauce, and red seeds give reference to the colors of the Mexican flag.  Even though Chiles en Nogada was born in Puebla this dish has been adopted as a source of national pride.

Mexico is filled with small dishes called antojitos.  Puebla is most well know for its chalupas and molotes.  A chalupa is made by pressing a thin layer of masa dough around the outside of a small mold, in the process creating a concave container resembling the boat of the same name. They are  then deep fried to produce crisp, shallow cup which is then filled with a variety of ingredients.

Molotes are small masa based stuffed antojitos slightly resembling a small empanada.  Molotes are filled with basic ingredients such as meat or potatoes to more exotic ingredients such as corn fungus or squash flowers. 

Puebla is also well known for its sweets.  The most well know candy coming from Puebla is the Camote Poblano or sweet potato candy. These candies are made with pureed sweet potatoes mixed with sugar and a variety of flavorings. They are hand-rolled and wrapped in wax paper. Dulces de camote also date back to the colonial period in Puebla.

Another great candy is know as jamoncillo.  This candy comes in different varieties depending on what part of the country you are in.  However in Puebla the jamoncillo is referred to a candy made with pumpkin seed paste and usually comes in a bar form with a red stripe.

And what would a good Cinco de Mayo celebration be without libations?  Puebla has some great offerings in that department at well.  First off is the classic nevado which is most like a margarita.  A nevado is frozen cocktail comprised of fruit juice and a little liquor.

Another drink native to Puebla would be the acachul.  This drink is derived by fermenting local wild chapulin cherries.

So now that you know a little more about the history of Cinco de Mayo, do yourself a favor.  Instead of just eating the typical fare of guacamole, enchiladas and margaritas, go and find some excellent cuisine from the state of Puebla!

No comments:

Post a Comment