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Insider's Food | Carolina de la Cajiga

Can an ancient dish be tweaked to appeal to current tastes?

Yes! Laura Ramirez, a native of San Miguel, has done it. I refer to the exquisite dish that the indigenous people of what we now know as Mexico have enjoyed since time immemorial. This complex recipe has up to a hundred ingredients, including chiles, spices, fruits, nuts, seeds, tortillas, herbs, and even chocolate. It is called mulli in Nahuatl and mole in Spanish.


Fray Bernardino de Sahagún mentioned mole, traditionally the main dish at weddings and celebrations, in the Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España (General History of Things from New Spain), in the 16th-century Florentine Codex. UNESCO recognized mole as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.


As a young woman, Laura, now known as Doña Laura as a sign of respect, had no interest in her family's mole business. She did not go beyond her duty of chopping ingredients. Laura enjoyed being a fashion designer until her parents asked for help. Little by little, she learned all the phases of the making of Mole until she fell in love with the process and its significance. After learning the traditional ways, Laura began developing recipes that adapted the acclaimed dish to contemporary tastes. Today, she thanks her parents for giving her and her siblings a way to earn a living. "As a tribute, I named my company after my mother, Moles Galdi," she states with satisfaction. Laura has revolutionized the ancestral recipes by introducing different techniques and, most of all, adding umami, the ultimate sense that provokes a velvety and pleasant sensation. How she does it is her culinary secret; the result is what matters. Doña Laura's revision of the family cookbook may have something to do with her being a designer. What she has maintained is not using preservatives, colorings, or artificial flavors. Her moles are deliciously light and balanced, not irritating or producing a burning sensation.


Legend says that a few decades after the Spanish colonizers arrived, nuns in a monastery in Puebla, wanting to impress a bishop, experimented by adding sugar and bread, which did not exist in America previously resulting in the elaborate moles we know today. The best-known are the scarlet mole from Puebla and the negro from Oaxaca, though there are countless variations less laborious and with fewer components. What strikes me most about moles is how someone combined such disconnected components to produce this unparalleled dish.


"Making mole is a labor of love and dedication. Over time, I have learned you can't rush the process. It is a kind of ritual where I’m just the executor and the ingredients are in charge. I can't make mole without absolute attention," Laura explains.


"The aromas that emanate at each step are not easy to describe," Laura comments, savoring them in her mind. "Like waves, the fragrances come and go, creating seductive effects. Once the ingredients are ready, I start roasting the chiles. Each one has its peculiarities; some are mild, fruity, or floral, while others are spicy. Scorching them produces a woody or earthy bouquet. I balance the tangy, sweet, salty, sour, and bitter notes to achieve the perfect equilibrium. Doing this awakens my tastebuds.


There's more. "Next comes the smoking and baking of the spices, bread, peanuts, sesame seeds, and plantains. When I add the chocolate, its intense perfume makes me vibrate. Next, I mix everything and the paste goes to the mill. Ah! I forgot the sofrito: the slow frying of onions, garlic, tomatoes, and herbs, resulting in the unmistakable aroma of traditional Mexican kitchens." The last step is folding everything together until it becomes mole—the "dish of the gods," she exclaims with pride and satisfaction.


Laura’s culinary experience allows her to deconstruct dishes and know their components and preparation methods—a valuable tool for designing new recipes. With the skills she acquired through the years, she has developed her own moles, such as the mole with mango, the dried fruit mole, and the house special.


In 2016, the Business Council of San Miguel Allende awarded Laura Ramírez the Woman Entrepreneur Award. This recognition spurred her to continue creating the best moles and researching to come up with even more varieties. Her children are already part of the family business; she has been preparing them to take the reins. Doña Laura is exploring how to expand her company and distribute her moles in boutiques and specialty stores.

Laura Ramírez | Moles Galdi

You can meet Laura Ramírez and buy Moles Galdi at the TOSMA organic market, on Ancha de San Antonio 123, on Saturdays from 9 am to 2 pm, or any day by calling 415 122 2235, Whatsapp 415 130 0015, or on Facebook as Moles Galdi.

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