COVID-19 Announcement: For more information about our current policies and procedures. Please click here

Mole and Margaritas at Mayakobas El Pueblito Cooking Class

Juanita Rodriguez 09-01-2018

Cooking Classes in Playa del Carmen

Updated September 20, 2021

Making Mole With Mayakoba’s Executive Chef

Since its opening, El Pueblito’s cooking classes at Mayakoba have garnered the reputation for being three hours of delicious fun. Being a Mole fanatic, (one of Mexico’s most complicated and flavorful dishes) I’ve always wanted to learn the recipe. So when Mole appeared on Chef Karla’s schedule, I didn’t hesitate to sign up!

Although the origin of this complex Mexican dish remains a mystery, there are legends dating back to Colonial times. One account gives nuns from a Puebla convent the credit. During an unexpected visit by the Archbishop, the nuns panicked as they couldn’t decide what to serve him. They began praying for inspiration. Consequently, an angel appeared, directing them to cut, chop, and combine the random inventory of items they had on hand. Nuts, chiles, bread, and even chocolate were sauteed, blended, and simmered. The Archbishop ate every last spoonful of the saucy sensation. The recipe became a national treasure in Mexico and is one of the country’s most distinguished dishes.

Pronounced MO-lay, the rich and slightly spicy sauce is typically served over chicken. In spite of its lengthy list of savory ingredients, chocolate is perhaps its most surprising component. Naturally being a fan of chocolate and Mexican cuisine, I had no doubt I’d love mole.

Chef Carla

Class Is In Session 

Upon entering the gorgeous, Mexican tiled industrial kitchen, we were greeted by two friendly assistants/bartenders. After directing us to our seats, we were offered a choice of welcome cocktail. The drink menu featured fresh maracuya (passion fruit), guanabana (soursop) or tamarindo (a brown tamarind pea pod) muddled with a splash of tequila. Each of the exotic elixirs was enticing but I opted for the guanabana, which did not disappoint.

Coupled with a good friend, we enjoyed meeting other students in the group from Monterrey, Poland, and the United States. (Beyond her native Spanish, Mayakoba’s executive chef Karla Enciso also leads classes in Italian, English, and French.)

This gourmet kitchen provided the perfect space for our class of nine. Each station was well organized with pre-portioned ingredients laid out for us. Of course the best part was that there was no cleanup and no pots to scrub at the end!

El Pueblito Cooking School at Mayakoba, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

The Secrets To Mexico’s Most Sophisticated Sauce

We began by preparing the various dried chiles such as ancho and pasilla. First, we fried them in lard and then boiled them in chicken broth before being added to the blender. Next, pecans, pumpkin, and sesame seeds were sauteed with fragrant anise, cloves, and thyme. From there, the golden nuts joined the chiles in the blender with a touch of broth.

Hand-painted clay pots hosted sizzling green tomatillos, onions, tomatoes, garlic, and sliced green apples (a substitute for plantains). Afterwards, when the ingredients were browned, we blended them with a spoonful of chicken broth and a blackened tortilla. Chef Karla explained that blackened tortilla produces a similar effect as that of activated charcoal in aiding digestion.

Cooking Class at Mayakoba, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Slow Cooking, Sipping And Savoring The Experience

After sautéing and blending, browning, and more blending, the result was three thick liquids. The smooth pastes were poured into one olla (pot) and stirred over a low gas flame for half an hour. Karla revealed the secret to a rich and savory mole was to slow cook it for as long as possible, and stir often. Some chefs have been known to stir their mole for 2 hours a day for almost a week prior to serving it. In doing so, the sauce is reduced and the delightful flavors develop to perfection.

Sipping our cocktails, we continuously stirred the deep-red colored mole sauce. At this time, the cacao, which we had ground midway through the class was sprinkled into the mix. During periodic tastings, a pinch of salt, a dash of sugar, and a second fistful of chocolate were added. Chef Karla shared that a great mole should acknowledge a perfect fusion of flavors. Thus, when the saltiness, the sweetness, and the spiciness are all detected, an immaculate blend has been created.

Grinding Cacao at El Pueblito Cooking School at Mayakoba, Playa del Carmen

At Last, We Eat!

Once the aromatic sauce was ready, we added pre-cooked chicken breasts. Later, in yet another exquisite, decorative olla, we fried a cup of white rice. In addition to the water, a few sprigs of cilantro, peas, chopped carrots, and salt were added to enhance the steamed rice. Hence, a perfect accompaniment to the mole was ready.

Finally, the time came to plate our savory creations. Garnishes of cilantro and toasted sesame seeds completed the presentation. I couldn’t wait to taste the explosion of rich mole flavors! Chef Karla had selected a bottle of national red wine to pair with our meal. Our taste buds rose to a standing ovation with every bite. Not one person left even a single grain of rice on their plate.

Mole at El Pueblito Cooking School in Mayakoba, Playa del Carmen

Overall, the El Pueblito cooking class experience was 5 stars. And no, it wasn’t due to the tequila and wine served throughout the class. Our expert host was very engaging, encouraging us with practical instruction at every step. Because of her passion and capacity to teach, we left with the confidence that one day, we’d actually be able to pull off this sophisticated dish.

A Culinary Adventure Of Your Own

Weekly classes are offered within the picturesque El Pueblito village at Mayakoba. Chef Sandra, the new culinary host extraordinaire, is undeniably passionate about promoting Mexican cuisine. However, the notable culinary artist is open to leading themed classes upon request. Ever wondered about the secret behind a delectable Thai curry? Would you like to try you hand at rolling your own pasta dough for a hearty Italian dish? She is all for celebrating culinary curiosity and sharing her expertise.

For a schedule of upcoming classes or to reserve your spot you can contact El Pueblito through their Facebook page. As a guest of Bric Vacation Rentals, your designated ambassador is happy to assist in booking one of these highly entertaining and rewarding experiences. Salud!

El Pueblito Cooking School at Mayakoba, Playa del Carmen, Mexico