Puebla: The Home of The Chile en Nogada

Here we are in Puebla: the home of the Chile en Nogada. And lucky us to be here exactly in chile en nogada season! The 15th of September is Mexico's Independence Day, which is when they eat they eat their national dish, of course. Like hamburgers on July 4th, except so much better. From August through September you can find chiles en nogada on nearly every menu in town. (In fact, it seems as if every restaurant prints exactly the same sign, only adjusting the price).

THE STORY: The chile en nogada was born when Commander (and soon-to-be Emperor of Mexico) Augustín de Iturbide passed through Puebla after signing the Treaty of Cordoba in 1821, which gave Mexico its independence from Spain. The nuns (it's disputed which ones) prepared this dish for him—its green, white, and red colors symbolizing the Mexican flag.

If you haven't tried a chile en nogada (you really should address that hole in your life), this is what it is: a poblano pepper stuffed with picadilla (pork, beef, or chicken, or a comination), various fruits and nuts, topped with a walnut cream sauce and pomegranate seeds. Noel's version is slightly different.

I felt sure that of all places, Puebla would be where I could find a chile as good or better than the one Noel makes. Our first attempt was at a mezcal bar/restaurant in Cholula, simply because that was where we ended up. Not even close. It was just....fine. Nothing more.

Our second attempt was at the Fonda de Santa Clara—a recommended, popular restaurant known for its traditional Poblano dishes. This one was pretty good, but still didn't have me singing. It tasted like a bit like pancakes (too much cinnamon—too grainy). Noel ordered the Mole Poblana, about which I'd say the same.

  Chile en Nogada from Fonda de Santa Clara in Puebla's historic center.

Chile en Nogada from Fonda de Santa Clara in Puebla's historic center.

The following day our taxi driver recommended we check out a feria in Tonanzintla - a neighborhood of Cholula. A feria of cheese and chiles en nogada. "The place to go," he says, "is a yellow house down a side street behind the church. They serve food on the weekends." 

And finally: a chile to honor the honorable. It was just what it should be. My only complaint is that it needed more filling.

  The chile en Nogada at Casa de Buen Comer in Tonanzintla, Cholula.

The chile en Nogada at Casa de Buen Comer in Tonanzintla, Cholula.

The restaurant is La Casa de Buen Comer. Though it's really someone's house transformed into a restaurant on the weekends. If you happen to be in Puebla on a weekend in August or September, don't miss it! Once again, they've proved to us that the best Mexican food is not in the fancy restaurants, but in the market, on the street, or in people's homes.

Rachel Glueck