Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Learn to make guacamole the traditional way

There’s a unique magic to making guacamole in a molcajete, a type of mortar and pestle made from volcanic rock and used in Mexico since ancient times. The flavor benefits are unmistakable, as the rock’s rough surface brings out the ingredients’ natural oils, creating a richer, more aromatic dish. More than just a kitchen tool, the molcajete is a treasured piece of Mesoamerican heritage.

The mortar and pestle are essential in the cooking of various cultures, each with its own unique techniques. In Indian cuisine, the mortar and pestle are often used in a pounding motion to crush spices and herbs, releasing their intense flavors and oils. This method is crucial for creating flavorful, aromatic masalas and pastes. Similarly, Thai cuisine uses a pounding technique to make vibrant pastes for curries and salads.

Avocados with the image of Virgin of Guadalupe
Choosing the perfect avocado is key to good guacamole. (Victoria Valtierra Ruvalcaba/Cuartoscuro)

In contrast, the Mexican technique consists of mashing ingredients with a press and twist motion of the tejolote, or pestle, against the rock surface of the molcajete. The molcajete’s rough texture is perfect for achieving a chunky, rustic texture. While the pounding motion in Indian and Thai cuisines aims to pulverize and blend thoroughly, the Mexican technique focuses on preserving the integrity of each ingredient without overprocessing.

Using a molcajete is a journey into authentic Mexican cuisine, and it’s also a bit of a workout. Mashing the ingredients with the strength of one hand while hugging the molcajete with the other is a sensory experience like no other. Here’s a step-by-step guide for creating an amazing guacamole using a molcajete:

  1. Start by scooping out two avocados into the molcajete. Creamy, ripe avocados are the heart of any good guacamole.
  2. Use the tejolote to mash them into a chunky consistency. Press and twist the tejolote against the avocado, aiming for a smooth texture that is still pleasantly chunky.
  3. On a cutting board chop one tomato, half an onion, and a handful of cilantro. Each adds a burst of nutrients and flavor.
  4. Using a spoon, incorporate all the chopped ingredients into the mashed avocado in the molcajete. Gently mix them together, ensuring even distribution.
  5. Add salt to taste. Salt enhances the natural flavors and brings everything together.
A man opening an avocado with a knife
Be careful when opening the avocado; it should be opened in the middle and around the seed. (Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock)

Using the molcajete as the serving bowl to bring your guacamole to the table adds a touch of magic to any meal. You can garnish with lemon wedges, radish slices or cilantro leaves. The rough beauty of the stone, combined with the eye-popping colors of the guacamole, invites everyone to dip into the feast.

Place the molcajete in the center of the table, surrounded by your favorite dippers, like crispy tortilla chips, fresh vegetable sticks or soft tortillas. Serve it alongside grilled meats or as a topping for tacos and nachos. The communal action of dipping and sharing from the molcajete as a group not only enhances the flavors but also brings people together, turning any meal into a celebration.

As your family and friends gather around, dipping and savoring each bite, you’re not just serving guacamole; you’re creating memories and honoring a rich cultural legacy. So the next time you crave guacamole, try making it in a molcajete and savor the magic it brings to your table.

Sandra Gancz Kahan is a Mexican writer and translator based in San Miguel de Allende who specializes in mental health and humanitarian aid. She believes in the power of language to foster compassion and understanding across cultures. She can be reached at: [email protected]

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