Oaxaca is the center of chocolate production in Mexico, so it should come a no surprise to learn that Oaxaca chocolate is famous, not just in Mexico, but abroad. The history of Oaxaca chocolate goes back for centuries, and the residents of this region consume significantly more chocolate than other people in Mexico, thanks to the pervasiveness of chocolate in Oaxacan culture. Many visitors to this region of Mexico indulge in its famous ingredient, taking advantage of the culinary heritage of Oaxaca chocolate in a wide assortment of both sweet and savory dishes.
Chocolate is made from the beans of the cacao tree, after they are picked and carefully fermented. The seasoned beans are ground into a gritty paste which can be seasoned with an assortment of ingredients to bring out its flavor. In Mexico, chocolate has historically been consumed in a wide assortment of things, but perhaps most famously in the form of a hot spiced drink, which European explorers brought back with them. This drink, in a slightly different incarnation, is known today at hot chocolate, and it is popular around the world.
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Traditional Oaxaca chocolate is prepared in a number of ways. It is often ground with sugar, cinnamon, and almonds, and formed into bars which can be used to prepare hot chocolate and other dishes. You may hear this form of Oaxaca chocolate referred to as “Mexican chocolate,” and it is readily available in many grocery stores, often in beautifully packaged octagonal boxes with thick wedges of chocolate which must be broken apart for use.
Oaxaca is also famous for its mole, a savory dish which sometimes includes chocolate. Mole is savory, not sweet, which may be strange for people who are accustomed to chocolate in the form of desserts only. Mole is also extremely spicy, and it is a rich, piquant sauce which pairs well with a wide assortment of foods. Mole can be found pre-mixed, and it is also possible to assemble your own, using the ingredients which Oaxacans have used for centuries.
A lesser known use of Oaxaca chocolate is tejate, which is a cold chocolate drink. It can be difficult to find tejate outside of Oaxaca, which is a great pity, since this drink is quite delightful. It is made with chocolate, masa, flowers, and the pulp of the mamey fruit. The ingredients are ground and blended into a rich, frothy drink which is extremely refreshing in the summer.