Cooking Like A Mexican


Cuachala is a staple dish from Jalisco, Colima and Nayarit, western Mexico states that are all nestled together near the Pacific Ocean. This dish is a variation of “chileatole,” a pre-Hispanic recipe for a hearty stew that fill up the belly and warms the heart. Cuachala is a stew and must be eaten with a spoon; its thickness is drank rather than chewed.

cookingchili.JPGTraditionally, this dish is made with hen meat. Hen has a tougher, redder meat and a much stronger taste, which is why it is often used over chicken, which is sometimes is too bland. However, you’ll only find hen at the small pollerías and I’m not sure if what they sell really is hen, so it’s fine to use plain ol’ chicken.

Fun fact: Pre-Hispanic Mexico did not have chickens, so this dish was made with wild duck.

The base of this dish are the chiles, specifically cascabel chilis. They’re also known as the rattle chili, a nickname that comes from the loose seeds rattling around inside a dried cascabel when it’s shaken. These chiles are small and have the shape and size of a cherry when they’re fresh. As they dry, they become a little rugged and their color deepens into a brownish red. They are not very spicy.

Side note: The importance of the chili in Mexican cooking dates back to the Mesoamerican period, when it was considered as much a staple as beans and corn. During the 16th century, Bartolome de las Casas, a Spanish historian and the first resident bishop of Chiapas, wrote that without chilies, the indigenous people did not think they were eating. It is for this reason that many Mexican people believe their national identity would be lost without the chili.

Not all of us have a tolerance for spice, though. Most Mexican dishes contain chiles but they’re not as hot and spicy as you’d think. And chiles aren’t just about heat; the flavor of the pepper is also of great importance. Many dishes call for very specific chiles because those are the ones that “go” with other ingredients to make the dish what it is.



For the meats:

2 pounds of pork shank

2 pounds of chicken

1 onion

2 tomatoes

3 bay leaves

6 pepper corns

10 sprigs of fresh oregano

Salt and pepper to taste



Cook the chicken with the oregano, half the onion and a tomato (cut in quarters) for an hour in a pot with enough water to cover. In a separate pot, cook the pork with the other half of the onion, bay leaves, pepper and salt. Once the meats are fully cooked and tender, shred them and set aside. Reserve the stock for the sauce.

For the sauce:

2 pounds of green tomatoes, washed

3 cloves of garlic

1 bundle of cilantro, washed

7 cascabel chiles

½ cup uncooked rice

7 ounces tortilla dough

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Powdered chicken bouillon to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

Soak the chiles in the leftover stock, remove seeds and blend with the green tomatoes, garlic and cilantro. Reserve some sprigs of cilantro to add while cooking. Strain the sauce and cook in a pan with the oil.

To thicken the sauce and give it the right consistency, soak the rice in hot water for a couple of minutes, then add the tortilla dough, blend and strain. Slowly add the rice mix to the sauce over medium heat, stirring until a thick consistency is achieved.

Once the sauce is nice and thick, taste it before seasoning. If you feel like the sauce is too tart, add a little sugar. Then, season with powdered chicken bouillon first, simmer for five minutes, then add salt if needed. If the sauce is too thick, stir in a little stock to thin it out (but remember the consistency is quite important). Add the shredded meats and the remaining cilantro springs and stir until mixed.

 Buen provecho!