Enrique Olvera’s Mole Madre Turns 1,000 Days Old

A mole at Pujol has become a living, breathing thing with a lifespan, thus far, of nearly three years

If you watched the Enrique Olvera episode of Netflix Chef’s Table, you would have seen a mole at Mexico City restaurant Pujol that was being treated more like a masa madre than a traditional mole negro. The mother was created in March of 2013 during the restaurant Quintonil’s first anniversary. Olvera and his team made more than needed for the party and rather than reheating and using it within a week as they would normally do, when it got down to ten liters they added new ingredients to make a mole according to what was in season that week. They did the same thing again and again. What they found was that the mole never stopped evolving, continually becoming more complex. It has become a living, breathing ingredient. And now, according to Olvera’s Instagram, it has turned 1,000 days old.

Masa madres, or sourdough starters, can be maintained to live for years. There are legends of pepperpot (though steeped in the preservative cassareep) on plantations in Guyana and the southern Caribbean that have lasted decades. This is the first time, at least to my knowledge, that a Mexican mole has lived for anywhere close to this amount of time.

Here’s what Olvera said about his mother mole in his cookbook Mexico from the Inside Out , from Phaidon:

“The name mole madre (mother mole) refers to the idea of a mother dough in the bakery world. We fold freshly made mole into the base of old mole to continuously shape a flavor that evolves and becomes simultaneously more subtle and complex.

Unlike conventional moles, this one is made not with four chile varieties, but rather with just one: green, red, and black chilhuacle. And instead of frying the chiles, we roast them so that the mole isn’t oily. We also use digestive spices and avoid the typical animal protein broth.”

Pujol’s mole is served alone on a plate, with only tortillas on the side. Find the recipe for Olvera’s mole madre here.