Chiles en Nogada – the taste of México’s Independence

Chile (pepper) is the heart and soul of Mexican food, and as I would say in my own language, is the beginning and end of Mexican food.”

Ricardo Muñoz Zurita

A prestigious Mexican dish, Chiles en Nogada moves into the spotlight each year, for the celebration of México’s Independence.

The myth of the dish, is that it was created by nuns from the convent of Santa Mónica, in 1821, for the celebration of the signing of México’s independence. However, historians have shown this isn’t quite correct. As with many traditions and celebrations around the world, the story has changed along the way and become slightly more mythic than historical fact.

The truth of the dish is that it was not created for the independence dinner – but was actually around before that. Created by nuns from Puebla, it is included in the 18th century book “La tipica cocina poblana y los guisos de sus religiosas” (Traditional cuisine from Puebla and the dishes of its nuns) by Salazar Monroy. However, it reached it’s popular status by being served at the historic, celebratory dinner in Puebla, August 24th, 1821. The dinner hosted Agustín de Iturbide, a Mexican Army General and Juan O’Donojú, the Viceroy of New Spain and was in celebration of the signing of the Treaty of Córdoba (establishing México’s independence from Spain). José Luis Juárez López, a research professor at the National Institute of Anthropology and History points out, the dish served that evening didn’t quite look like today’s Chiles en Nogada either, as the emblematic flag version version known and served yearly, did not come about until the 1930’s.

Today’s Chiles en Nogada is a patriotic plate of deliciousness. Served warm to cool-ish (not hot), Chiles en Nogada is poblano peppers stuffed with a picadillo (chopped) mix of fruit, nuts and meat, topped with a savoury nutty-cream sauce and sprinkled with fresh pomegranate seeds and parsley – the colours of the Mexican flag, unmistakable. You’ll find there are recipe versions with walnuts, pecans or combinations of nuts and with white wine, sherry or no alcohol but deciding which version you prefer can be half the fun each year and although they’re only available late summer, you’ll still have plenty of time to try different ones. Starting mid-August and going until the end of September, many restaurants create specials promoting their version of Chiles en Nogada and of course, for the adventurous home-cook, there’s lots of recipes available online.

If you’re living in (or visiting) México and haven’t tried this delicious dish yet, now is the time! It’s mid-August and restaurants have begun their promotions for it.

¡Buen provecho!

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