Chiles en Nogada: A Festive, Patriotic Dish
Chiles en Nogada is a seasonal, Mexican dish that is usually served to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day, as it features the colors of the Mexican flag (green, white and red) and its origin dates back to the year when the Declaration of Independence was already signed.
The centerpiece of the dish is a roasted, peeled poblano pepper stuffed with picadillo—a ground meat filling—and topped with a creamy walnut sauce, pomegranate seeds and parsley leaves. It is very similar to the popular Chile Relleno, a more commonly known traditional dish also made from poblano pepper. But the charm and uniqueness of the Chile en Nogada lies on the unique walnut sauce (salsa de nuez de nogal, in Spanish), which embodies an array of herbs, fresh cheese, milk, sugar and sherry wine.
There are two commonly believed stories that explain the origin of this dish in Mexico’s culinary scene. According to a popular legend from the state of Puebla, in East-Central Mexico, the Santa Monica Convent nuns created the dish in 1821 to honor army general Agustín de Iturbide, who was passing through Puebla on his saints’ day (August 28, the feast day of San Augustine of Hippo) just weeks before he signed the Declaration of Independence from the Spanish Empire. The nuns wanted to offer Iturbide a dish that featured the colors of the army’s flag (The Three-Guarantees Army): green, white and red, so they chose seasonal ingredients, such as walnuts and pomegranate seeds to create this wonderful recipe.
The other version tells the story of three young ladies from Puebla, whose boyfriends were soldiers of the Three-Guarantees Army. When the young ladies heard Agustin de Iturbide and his troops were visiting the city, they wanted to receive their beloved ones with a new, special dish featuring the colors of their uniforms. The rest of the story, we already know.
Whichever story is true, one thing is certain: the Chiles en Nogada is one of Mexico’s greatest culinary legacies.
Where to Try Chiles en Nogada in Puerto Vallarta
Most Mexican-cuisine restaurants in Puerto Vallarta feature Chiles en Nogada in their menus for the summer-fall season. However, some may not be open in September, a month commonly used by restaurants in town to take a well-deserved break.
Gaby’s Restaurant in Puerto Vallarta’s El Centro neighborhood is an excellent option to try Chiles en Nogada during the Mexico’s Independence Day festivities. Enjoy their special menu, featuring this Mexican dish with a Lemon Margarita or a Lemonade, and dessert for only $199 pesos.
And if you are not lucky enough to spend the season in the city, you can order Chiles en Nogada any time of the year. When the pomegranate season ends, Chef Julio Castillón replaces this ingredient with strawberry, so the dish gets an unexpected, delicious twist!
Mina 252, El Centro
Phone: (322) 222-0480
About the Mexican War of Independence
After more than 280 years under command of the Spanish Empire, the Mexican War of Independence began on September 16, 1810, when Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla—the parish priest of Dolores, a small town in the state of Guanajuato—encouraged people to rise up against the Spanish colonial government. This event is known as the Grito de Dolores (The Cry of Dolores) and it is commemorated every year on the night of September 15, when the President of Mexico and city officials throughout the country begin the national festivities as they cry ¡Viva México!
The Mexican War of Independence lasted 11 years and ended formally with the signing of the Declaration of Independence on September 24, 1821, in Mexico City.