Of Moles and Molcajetes

William Abranowicz

When making an authentic Mexican mole, a molcajete is often used to grind the seeds and spices. However, much Mexican pottery has a high-lead content—a real problem. We found a good substitute in a Japanese market, a suribachi—an unglazed bowl with combed ridges on the inside for grinding. We tried it out with toasted sesame seeds, and the aroma was nutty and pungent, as strong as fresh peanut butter, leaving us incredulous that such richness came from such birdseed. But, in fact, a true mole begins with toasted sesame seeds ground with a handful of raisins.