My aunt Isabel had been telling me about this amazing pozole restaurant in Mexico City for some time, and I had it on my “to-do” list for my last trip there. I did not grow up eating a lot of pozole, besides for the breakfast that follows dinner at a wedding where you dance until the morning. Rather, I got in the habit of eating the dish here in NYC a few years ago. I have since moved downtown, but when I was living in the Upper East Side, I would get it at Sabor a Mexico II on 77th between 2nd and 3rd. All winter long I would order this soup, especially if I felt even the slightest hint of a cold coming on. Pozole is a Mexican soup that comes green or red, with chicken or pork, but there are variations of it, and I am not exactly sure if there are any rules. The common thread is that it has pozole, a large and puffy type of corn that we call hominy here in the US. It is fun to eat because the kernel is large and spongy- I watch my niece pick them out of her soup with delight. The version I order here from Sabor a Mexico is green and comes with chicken. It seemed to have tomatillos and lots of oregano in it, but I learned that in Mexico green pozole usually has pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and not tomatillos. When I told my employee, who is from Oaxaca, that we were going to be making a green pozole at Victory Garden she was shocked. She only knew pozole to be red. Hence, I don’t really think there are any rules besides that it normally comes with either chicken or pork, and can be green or red. It is always really filling, and the broth can heal you from whatever the universe send your way.
We had spent the day in the Centro of Mexico City at Bellas Artes before heading over to Pozole Moctezuma. The restaurant is located behind the Plaza Garibaldi, and you would not be able to find it even if you were trying. There is no sign on the outside, only a handwritten name placard next to the buzzer. The other buzzers were last names, and one of them was for “constellation” therapies. However, there is a little parking lot across the street that fills up with cars every afternoon around 3pm with people coming in for their lunch, and a parking lot attendant to take care of everything.
Half the week they make red pozole, and half the week they make green pozole. We went on a Thursday, which meant green. The only options they gave us for ordering were what type of pork we wanted, and if we wanted sardines with it or not. They brought a whole avocado on a plate with a knife, a side plate of chicharron, some sardines, limes, and a spoonful of mezcal to pour in to cut the fat. It was rich, with the pepitas thickening the delicious pork broth. The chicharron added the crunch, the sardines added a little bit of salt, and the mezcal and limes blended in beautifully to tame down the richness. I dreamt of this dish afterwards for days. It was so harmonious, with all of the textures, depth, and layers of flavor that one seeks in Mexican cuisine. I washed it down with a Paloma (with only a tiny hint of guilt).
At the end, we were talking with the proprietor, who happened to go to school with my aunt’s husband’s brother. He had some jars of products that they made there in the kitchen. I purchased a jar of Alacranes, habaneros fried in olive oil, to take home with me. They are the most amazing condiment I have ever purchased. . . I will let them be the subject of another blog post.
In the meantime, if you would like to try some pozole here in New York, we make it every Saturday at Victory Garden at 31 Carmine Street. Call ahead to make sure (212) 206-7273. Otherwise, you can go to Pozole Moctezuma in Mexico City.