Puebla’s Patriotic Dish: Chiles en Nogada
From late July to early October, all forks in Puebla seem to point toward one entree: chiles en nogada. This labor-intensive dish, an icon of local gastronomy, consists of a poblano pepper that’s stuffed with ground pork and dried or fresh fruit, batter-fried, and then covered with a walnut cream sauce, pomegranate seeds, and parsley leaves.
The first recipe for chiles en nogada was developed at the Santa Monica convent by Augustinian nuns (although some historians credit the Claristas). Whatever their religious leanings may have been, the sisters got caught up in the fervor surrounding the Mexico’s independence in 1821. When Agustín de Iturbide — the liberator who co-wrote the peace treaties signed by Spain and later became Mexico’s emperor — passed through Puebla, a huge banquet was held. The nuns, seeking to demonstrate their national pride, presented Iturbide with an entree they’d concocted to display the red, white, and green colors of the new national flag.
“It is a very patriotic dish, because it has the three colors of the Mexican flag: green from the chile [and the parsley], white from the walnut sauce, and red from the pomegranate,” Luis Alberto Martínez Álvarez writes on the state’s website. “August arrives, and with it the typical chiles en nogada, which each year you can find in every home in Puebla.”
Chiles en nogada means peppers in walnut sauce. The word “nogada” comes from “nogal,” or “walnut.”
Although some people serve the rich, sweet-and-savory dish served at other times of the year, most chefs prepare it when its key ingredients — apples, pears, peaches, walnuts, and pomengranates — are at their peaks. In Puebla, both seasons coincide with el mes patrio, or the patriotic month, here in Mexico. Independence Day is Sept. 16 and, with the nation celebrating its bicentennial this year, kitchens all over Puebla are churning out chiles en nogada in epic proportions.
Of course, most locals will tell you that the best chiles en nogada they’ve ever eaten were made by one of their family members. Tip: They’re always right. But you’ll also find tasty renditions at nearly every traditional eatery in town. Try chiles en nogada at Mi Ciudad (Av. Juárez #2507, La Paz), Fonda La Mexicana (16 de Septiembre #706-A, El Centro), or any of these 13 local restaurants, which have devoted a website to the dish.