Tacos may very well be the perfect food, but let's face it, the standard Meximerican fare can get a bit stale after a while. Taco the Town is here to highlight some of the more unusual Mexican finds in the Valley.
This week: Oaxaca Black Mole Tacos served up by Los Condesa Gourmet Taco Shop
¿Como se dice?: La Condesa earns its title as a gourmet taco shop by going beyond the easily recognized Sonoran flavors and incorporating tacos from across Mexico. We go for the labor of love, the Oaxaca black mole. With upwards of 20 ingredients and a cook time that will eat up half your day, it's best to let the pros handle this dish. The rich black sauce gets its savory sweet reputation from the addition of chiles, nuts, spices and Mexican chocolate. That's right, spicy choco-chicken tacos.
(sink your teeth into all the spicy details after the jump)
La Comida: La Condesa's house specialties include Mexico City's chicken tinga, Yucatan cochinita pibil, and our favorite, Oaxaca black mole, all of which share space with more common taco fillings like carne asada, shrimp, and batter-fried dogfish. Any of the fillings can also be enjoyed in a thick and fluffy homemade corn tortilla quesadilla or burrito-style.
You may go to La Condesa for the tacos, but it's the amazing salsa bar that will turn you into a full-blown Condesa groupie. There's the red and green salasas you're used to seeing, and there's also a variety of fancy and flavorful options like the creamy chipotle-based pecan salsa or the earthy and nutty sesame oil drizzle. Both of which compliment the flavors in mole extremely well.
Complex mole-sauced chicken tacos and a salsa bar with almost a dozen creative offerings? You're going to have to practically pry us away from this place to get us to leave, or lure us out with promises of a trip to Dulceria Pico Rico next door, the Mexican version of Party City that makes us feel like a kid in a candy shop.
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El Sabor: If you know a bit about how mole is made, it makes perfect sense that the more nutty, savory salsa like pecan, sesame and peanut are the perfect compliment. Oaxaca is known as the land of seven moles, with the black mole being one of the most recognizable on most menus. With upwards of twenty ingredients and a labor intensive preparation, even the Mexican cooks we know prefer to use a premade base, and leave the sweating over a stove to someone else.
Every cook is different, but this mole is generally characterized by a blend of as many as five different chiles, spices (cinnamon, cloves, pepper, oregano), nuts (almonds, peanuts, seasame seeds, pecans), and high-quality Mexican chocolate. Five hours and many steps later, you have a complex black mole that hits every flavor note with spicy, savory, sweet, earthy, tart, and even bitter aspects.
Bring a bit of México to your kitchen: We won't lie. Mole is a lot of work to make yourself, but after you've achieved the goal of homemade mole, you'll feel like El Rey de la Cocina! If there's anyone's opinion we trust on how to make a good mole, it's Rick Bayless, whose black mole recipe is well over 20 ingredients long and a serious labor of love. Give it a whirl you're looking for a challenge.
Know of any Mexican gems in the Valley? Reveal your family secrets in the comment section.