Making a mole, a rich sauce traditional in Mexican cooking, is no small feat. It can take days to prep all the ingredients—which can include anything from chocolate to plantains to pumpkin seeds. Plus, chili peppers need to be grilled, seeds need to be ground into a fine powder, everything simmered until thick.

With 13 different moles (11 by amateur chefs, and two by local pros) to sample at Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts 10th annual “Mole to Die For,” the number of ingredients and flavors were bountiful.

In its decade in existence, “Mole to Die For” has become a beloved part of cultural center’s roster of Dia de los Muertos festivities. Amongst the altars of its annual muertos gallery show, the rich aroma of moles provided hearty sustenance and life-affirming deliciousness in a season of remembering the dead.

Indeed many of the Moleros offering up their tasty sauces into the competition spoke of those who had passed. Their recipes came from their mother, their grandmother, or in some cases, their great grandmother who had ground the seeds and roasted the chiles in Puebla and Oaxaca before them.

The event’s participants were tasked with casting a ballot for a favorite. Given the wide variety—spicy moles, chocolaty moles, tangy moles, bitter moles, tomatoey moles—this too was no easy feat. But at the end of the night, the title of mole most to die for went to two gentlemen from Oaxaca with a richly complex mole topped with sesame seeds and, in the professional category, the mother daughter team of Tamales La Oaxaqueña.

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Daniel Hirsch is a freelance writer who has been living in the Mission since 2009. When he's not contributing to Mission Local, he's writing plays, working as an extra for HBO, and/or walking to the top of Bernal Hill.

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