August 31, 2013

If you’re at all like me, Mexican food is a treat. In the good restaurants, Mexican food is flavorful and interesting in ways that other cuisines are not. There is, of course, the spice factor, which has been cranked up high particularly in Tex-Mex cuisine, but which is not so intense in many parts of Mexico. There’s also the fun of putting on your own toppings – salsa, guacamole, and lime, just to name a few. At some more authentic places, you’re sure to find cuts of meat from just about every part of the cow, pig, chicken, or goat often cooked and served in rich and flavorful sauces, served over yellow or red rice and beans.

However, for those of us with food allergies, it can be quite challenging to find out what exactly is in some of even the most popular sauces. Many salsas, even the homemade ones, are made with bullion that contains soy or corn protein. Others contain a touch of cream or cheese to give the sauce a thicker consistency.

For people with allergies to nuts and peanuts, the classic sauce to be on the lookout for is the mole (also referred to as mole poblano). Pronounced “moh-ley,” is very likely that this sauce will contain peanuts or nuts of some kind. A mole is traditionally made from finely ground chilies, spices, nuts, even chocolate and breadcrumbs, making the nuts very hard to detect. So famous for its numerous ingredients, whole songs have been written in which the lyrics basically just list all the ingredients (see Lila Downs – El Cumbia del Mole).

This sauce is not common enough in the United States to be found at very popular or fast-food places, but it is very common in the cuisine of southern Mexico – the states of Oaxaca and Puebla are famous for their versions. It is often served at festivals and can be found in any range of colors and flavors (learn more about mole on Wikipedia). In fact, a mole sauce is sometimes mixed with other simple sauces to add texture and flavor, so it is advisable to ask about any sauces you may be served, whether it is served over a piece of meat or covering a delicious burrito, enchilada, or rolled taco.