Where to find chili en nogada in Houston, Mexico’s most patriotic dish
Mexico’s Independence Day is one of the biggest celebrations in Mexico. Every year from September 15 to 16 in cities across the country, bells ring at 11 p.m. as excited crowds watch the reenactment of “El Grito de la Independencia” – the cry of Dolores – that Father Hidalgo shouted to the citizens de Dolores, Mexico in 1810, the start of Mexico’s 11-year struggle for independence from Spain. In Mexico City, the president rings the original freedom bell and then recites a speech. After the grite – the cry – the national anthem is sung, followed by fireworks, patriotic speeches, parades and celebrations. Mariachi music and screams of “Viva Mexico” continue through the night and into the next day. The red, white, and green of the Mexican flag are seen on buildings, people, and food, including Mexico’s most patriotic dish: the Chilis in Nogada.
Legend has it that after the victory of the war in 1821, Agustín de Iturbide, the victorious general, arrived at the Convent of Santa Mónica in Puebla, seat of the Clarissa nuns of the Order of Augustinian Recollects. It was August 28, the same day as the feast of Saint Augustine. De Iturbide was given a heavy meal, but almost refused to eat for fear of being poisoned by his enemies. However, he could not refuse a dish, presented in the colors of the Mexican flag. He embraced the seasonal bounty of the region; a roasted poblano pepper, stuffed with picadillo – a mixture of meats, nuts and fruits. The stuffed pepper was coated with a creamy white walnut-based sauce (nogada) and then garnished with pomegranate seeds. Modern interpretations are sometimes also garnished with cilantro and pine nuts.
According to tradition, Iturbide cleaned his plate and made the dish famous. He is still loved to this day. The city of San Andrés Calpan hosts an annual competition called the Feria del Chile en Nogada to determine who makes the best chili peppers in nogada. Nearby, the farmers of poblano also like to cultivate the traditional and rare fruits that are used in the dish.
There are several restaurants in the Greater Houston area where diners can enjoy Chiles en Nogada. Some give a unique touch to the dish, while others are more traditional. Read on to find out when and where to go, and note that most restaurants only offer this seasonal dish for a limited time.
Social Mexican Food Ambriza, several locations: This restaurant with locations at Vintage Park, La Centerra and Towne Lake offers a traditional take on the dish. Made with a poblano pepper stuffed with meat bathed in the nut cream sauce known as nogada and topped with pomegranate seeds, it is available until further notice. Look for lesser-known dishes such as Ceviche Costeño, which is whitefish marinated in coconut, serrano and lime, mixed with chopped red onions, cilantro and served with plantain chips; or the Aztec Pastel, composed of layers of lightly fried tortillas and pulled chicken with poblano sauce, sour cream, Menonita cheese and poblanos rajas.
Peaks of Arnaldo Richards 3601 Kirby: Chef and owner Arnaldo richards, who grew up in Monterrey, Mexico, before moving to Houston to study at the Hilton School of Hotel and Restaurant Management, draws influences from all over Mexico for its diverse menu. His Chilis in Nogada Tradicionales is stuffed with pulled pork in a peanut sauce with olives, almonds, raisins and fruit and topped with a creamy walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds. Picos is one of the few restaurants in Houston that serves this dish year-round.
Other dishes gleaned from the bounty of Mexico include the Pescado Veracruzana: the grilled catch of the day topped with Veracruz Sauce (tomatoes, green olives, capers and chili peppers güeros). From the state of Sinaloa comes Agua Chili de Camaron, shrimps marinated in spicy garlic, lime juice. Moles and pipiáns are also plentiful on the menu, including Mancha Manteles (which translates to “tablecloth stain” because it is very dark), pork and chicken with a peanut and chili a la Oaxaca ancho mole, Where Two-way duck, who spent time on favorite dishes in Houston’s lists, consists of a duck breast in green pipián sauce and a duck hindquarters with mole de ciruela.
Cafe di Fioré, 1010 Woodlands Parkway: Looking for Chiles en Nogada in the woods? This restaurant has been a mainstay since 2009, and it brings back this seasonal dish. During the rest of the year you can find beloved classics such as carne asada, carbon tacos and the customers’ favorite Mole Enchiladas, Which one is made with chicken, cheese, cream, sesame seeds and mole sauce. For a touch, try the Fried avocados stuffed with beef or chicken or Grilled salmon with creamy lime sauce.
Caracol, 2200 Post Oak Boulevard, and Hugo’s, 1600 Westheimer: Chiles en Nogada will be available until December in these two H Town Restaurant Group establishments, where you will always find authentic Mexican dishes in an elegant setting. Chief that of Hugo Ortega the stuffing for Chiles en Nogada is made with a mixture of pulled pork, red and green apples, pears, peaches, plantains, sweet potatoes, almonds and raisins. The stuffed pepper is then covered with a savory nut cream sauce and garnished with pomegranate seeds and parsley.
Coastal Mexican dishes that can be enjoyed in Caracol year-round include Langosta Puerto Nuevo, fire roasted lobster with playa la ropa and arroz Mexicano beans. For those who want grass with their surf, Californianotita de Puerco is a slowly braised bacon-wrapped pork knuckle with mole costeño (a coastal mole made from costeño peppers), swiss chard and carrots. The meatless Tamal Azteca with Hongos and Huitlacoche is a pan of stacked tortillas topped with mushrooms, corn truffles and roasted tomato sauce.
TO Hugo’s, guests can enjoy regional Mexican cuisine such as Carnitas de Pato, duck carnitas with tomatillo sauce, and Chuleton de Cerdo, a Berkshire pork chop on carrot mash with roasted corn salad and cherry mole.
Cuchara, 214 Fairview: Co-owner Ana Beaven goes further with his Chiles en Nogada. It’s her favorite dish, and she takes great pride in serving it just like her teenage grandmother who was educated by the Clarisas nuns (known elsewhere as Poor Claire Sisters) in their convent in Puebla. Cuchara’s version is served in a traditional Talavera clay plate, and the kitchen staff counts every chili. The ingredients of the dish come from Mexico. This is the last year they’ll be serving it with acitron, a sweet dried fruit of the biznaga cactus, as it’s on Mexico’s watchlist for extinction. When his acitron shortage is exhausted, Cuchara will replace Oaxacan candied pineapple. Throughout the year, this level of attention is found in other dishes, such as the Hidalgo style. lamb barbacoa and Tamal Costeño, a pork or chicken tamal with red salsa and hoja santa steamed in banana leaves.
Fonda Santa Rosa, 9908 Beechnut: The owners of this relaxed, regional Mexican dining establishment took inspiration from the menu at Chiles en Nogada’s restaurant. Their stuffing is made with a variety of nuts and fruits. The garnish of pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and cilantro is arranged to resemble the Mexican flag. Likewise, artisanal dishes, such as Tricolor Enchiladas with three chicken enchiladas – one in red sauce, one in green sauce and the last in mole – are available year round. So is Molcajete Mixto, an exclusive combination of tender Angus beef, chicken fajitas and chorizo in a spicy morita pepper sauce, served with tender nopales, Panela cheese, Mexican onions and cilantro. Save room for the Pastel by Tres Leches, or vanilla cake with three milks.
Mandi Cocina Mexicana, 24179 State Highway 249, Tomball: Fans of traditional Mexican food in Tomball have a source for Chiles en Nogada this fall. Unlike some places, Mandi Cochina won’t start serving her version of Chiles en Nogada until October. Until then you can taste dishes like Enchiladas Potosinas, Crispy homemade tortillas flavored with guajillo peppers folded over cotija cheese and topped with sour cream or Enmoladas, pulled chicken enchiladas in a Puebla mole, topped with sour cream, red onion and avocado.
Tacodeli, 1902 Washington: For shoulder-to-shoulder interpretation, try the Chili and Nogada Tacos available at this “farm to taco” location until October 15th. Created by the co-owner Roberto Espinosa, Chile en Nogada tacos are made with roasted Anaheim peppers stuffed with HeartBrand Beef (from Harwood, Texas) Akaushi picadillo, pomegranate seeds, walnuts and cilantro. The tacos are then topped with a goat cheese sauce made from Cheese makers Cleveland, Texas goat. Vacations has great significance for Espinosa who said in a press release: “Our menu is deeply rooted in Mexican culinary traditions. As Mexico’s Independence Day is part of our brand’s history, we decided to create a unique taco to celebrate our heritage. ” Customers can also try the Frontera Fundido Chicken Tacos made with ggrilled chicken breast, iced jack cheese and sautéed poblano rajas and everyone’s favorite, Esquites, a cup of Mexican street corn mixed with diced red onion, queso fresco, cilantro and pieces of bacon.