We’re all familiar with Cinco de Mayo, but many Americans aren’t fully aware of what the holiday’s history and cuisine truly represent. Contrary to popular belief, the fifth of May is not Mexican Independence Day. What Cinco de Mayo actually celebrates is the unlikely victory of the Mexican army against the French during the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
In the U.S., the holiday has since become an even greater celebration of Mexican-American culture. While it’s fun to indulge in tacos and margaritas, it’s important to look past the stereotypes and learn the true significance of the day. For that we turned to Chef Margarita Villegas Leal, a native of the region, who filled us in on the rich culinary history and culture of Puebla.
Watch the video above as she makes one of the most delicious dishes in the region: mole poblano. Mole poblano is one of the best-known mole varieties and is often associated with the city’s ancient history. The type Margarita makes contains plantains, almonds, and raisins ground into a paste, which works to counterbalance the spice and heat of the chipotle and mulato peppers. The sauce is often served over turkey, chicken, or pork and is frequently eaten during holiday celebrations like Cinco de Mayo. You can practically smell the complex spice blend wafting off the screen.
She’s also a big fan of tlayoyos, which are filled with dry green peas, ground avocado leaves, and green chiles. They’re commonly eaten as snacks and appetizers in Puebla.
Both dishes are truly authentic gastronomic products of the region. If you’re in the area for Cinco de Mayo, you’re likely to eat them alongside the colorful celebrations, parades, and street parties that mark the holiday in Mexico. It’s a far cry from the overcrowded bars you’d experience in the states, and has a lot more meaning given the historic significance of the region.