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Pozole - the dish that hits all the right spots

Updated: May 29

Last weekend I made a traditional Mexican dish called “pozole”. It’s one of my top 5 meals to eat for sure. So let me tell you why this deliciousness and tradition, also comes with nutritional value.

Pozole is a long-cooking soup, made with hominy and pork (some people sub chicken, but I have always made it with pork). For the field corn to become hominy it has to go through a process called Nixtamalizacion, which involves preparing it on a solution made with calcium hydroxide. Lucky for us, we live in a time where I can buy the corn already prepared – in this case I buy a product called “mote pelado”, which my local Latin store brings from Peru.

So, in this case I still soak the hominy or mote pelado overnight in hot water, and then rinse it well in the morning. Add to the pot with clean water a whole head of garlic or two depending on how much I am making, and some pork soup bones. Let it cook until the hominy starts to “pop” and then I add salt, cubed pork and salsa de chile. Let it cook on medium for a couple hours until the meat is soft. It takes about five to six hours to be ready, and hence I don’t make it often, and when I do there are always leftovers to freeze.

There are variations of pozole depending on the region of the country. In Jalisco where I am from, it’s usually red like this (from the chiles). Once you are ready to eat, you add toppings like onion, cabbage, lettuce, oregano, other salsas, lime, some people like avocado and my partner likes adding sour cream to it.

Besides the pleasure and satisfaction that the dish brings, let me remind you that our traditional dishes are also loaded with nutrition:

Hominy – a whole grain, that through the process of nixtamalizacion its niacin becomes more bioavailable (some researchers speculate this may be the reason pellagra was not prevalent in Mesoamerica). It contains some fibre, protein and a mix of polyunsaturated, monosaturated and saturated fats, some calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron and zinc.

Pork – this is of course a source of protein for the dish. Depending on the cut the amount of fat will also vary. As mentioned I also add the bones since the beginning because they make the broth more flavorful. Pork is an excellent source of iron, B vitamins, zinc, and selenium.

In Mexico, if you go to a cenaduria to buy pozole at night, you will find that most of the pig is used, and when you place your order you can request a specific part you want in your soup – leg, loin, cheek… In fact, this was a very surprising thing for a Canadian family friend that was visiting with my family, when she was enjoying her plate, they uncovered the pig’s head that was right in front of her to make a cut. Not a pleasant surprise.

Cabbage – Providing some fibre, and a source of vitamins like C, and K. Personally, I tend to get purple most of the time because I love the colour. It does contain some additional beneficial phytochemicals, like anthocyanin that gives it the colour. But you don't need to go out of your way to get purple or red cabbage, in the case of anthocyanins you can also find them in any other red, purple, and blue fruits and vegetables.

Onion – A carb that provides us with some fibre, vitamin C, polyphenols, B vitamins (particularly rich in biotin). The nutrients in onions will of course vary depending on the type. The allium family vegetables (e.g. garlic, shallot) is rich in a phytochemical called thiosulfinates responsible for the pungent smells, but may also be responsible for the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial benefits.

Chile guajillo – these are not added to cover any macronutrient really, but more so for flavour and colour. Though, they are a source of vitamin A and C. Chiles also contain phytochemicals that have antioxidant properties. Capsaicin, one of those chemicals, is used in herbal remedies and commercial creams for pain management of arthritis.

It’s a simple dish, but very satiating - both physically and emotionally.

Pozole can be an everyday kind of food, as I said you can go to any cenaduria or Mexican restaurant and eat it any day. But it is also a special dish that we cook for family gatherings, parties or celebrations like Christmas. So, if your mouth is not watering now, that means you have probably never tasted it and you are missing out!

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