28: Tamal de Mole Negro at Guelaguetza.
The legacy of the Lopez family's popular Oaxacan restaurant looms large over not just over Koreatown, but over Los Angeles' Latino culture in general -- a place where wedding receptions, retirement banquets, and quinceañera parties seem to cycle through at regular intervals. Everyone comes, and everyone eats. To say Guelaguetza's potent mole negro -- made with about 26 ingredients and adapted from a generations-old family recipe -- is well-known would be akin to saying that Einstein had a couple of well-studied theories, or that Dickens wrote a few well-read books.
You could try the mole negro splashed atop enchiladas or roast chicken, but the best way is in one of the Oaxacan-style tamales, made from shredded chicken breast and a ladleful of the tar-thick sticky black sauce. Everything is bound up tightly in slippery green banana leaves and steamed for over an hour. It's no secret that the banana leaves lock in a superior amount of flavor and moisture, perserving the gentle sweetness of corn against the thunderous bitter backdrop of the mole negro. The entire assemblage adopts a deep ruddy stain. More sauce is ladled on top and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds is added.
Mole negro might be the closest edible equivalent to a black hole, an alloy of different ingredients stripped of their distinctiveness and compacted into a dense singularity of flavor. It's also very hard to resist the gravitational pull when you stand too close.
Check out the rest of our 100 of our favorite dishes. Suggestion? Write us a comment.
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