The block-long portion of Calle Moctezuma in Colonia Guerrero where the restaurant sits is just off Av. Reforma. It's right there in plain sight, but where? Mexico Cooks!' taxi driver missed it twice before he pulled up in front, and even then he couldn't believe we were anyplace we really wanted to be. There's no sign and no indication that the restaurant is anywhere on the block. Other restaurants, yes--but not the one you are looking for! The word 'pozole' next to the buzzer at Number 12 is your only clue that you are indeed in the right place.
Do the clandestine days of Prohibition appeal to you--those long-ago days when, if you wanted a snootful of booze runner's gin, you had to know somebody who knew somebody who knew where the gin joint was? "Joe sent me," was the joke of the era--knock three times, the little window in the door slid open, and if you were in the right place, knew the right people, and had the right look, you got in for a drink or two or three.
Something of those days continues to exist in Mexico City: not a gin joint, but a 65-year-old hidden and semi-secret restaurant very near the Centro Histórico. One of your capitalino friends will have been there; finding the address is still by word of mouth. Once you're pretty sure you're in the right place, buzz the doorbell marked 'pozole', and the door creaks open. Aha! Pozole estilo Guerrero--state of Guerrero style pozole--will soon be your comida (main meal of the day).
If you've been following Mexico Cooks! for quite a while, you'll probably remember our 2008 article about Doña María Medina's pozole estilo Jalisco. Jalisco-style pozole is almost always red, colored and flavored by chile guajillo and usually prepared with dried red corn. Until a few weeks ago, Jalisco-style pozole was the only kind Mexico Cooks! had eaten. Not any more! We have now partaken of other pozole pleasures.
The caldo (soupy part) of Guerrero-style pozole is green, more often than not, and prepared in part with pepitas (squash seeds). The dried, nixtamalize-d (soaked with builder's lime and water) corn is white, not red. The flavor is much milder than that of Jalisco-style pozole, and the accompaniments are decidedly different.
Our group of comensales (diners)--in this instance, happy fellow pozole-slurpers and good friends. From left in the photo: Mexico Cooks!' wife Judith McKnight, photographers Sergio Mendoza Alarcón and Bertha Herrera, journalist Rubén Hernández, and journalist Nadia Luna. The empty chair is mine, and we were later joined by the delightful gastronomer Silvia Kurczyn.
If you are interested in preparing a delicious meal for your friends and family--especially good on a cool fall day, a chilly winter day, or on one of Mexico City's cool, rainy summer afternoons--pozole estilo Guerrero is just the ticket. There are many recipes available on the Internet, both in Spanish and English--not necessarily the exact family recipe used at Pozole Moctezuma, but delicious nonetheless.
Our group indulged in several appetizers: an entire plateful of very fine rolled tacos de chorizo (chorizo is a spicy pork sausage, in this case house-made) and laden with finely chopped onion and fresh cilantro--plus a squeeze of fresh limón), disappeared before I could snap its picture. I pulled the second appetizer plate over to me as soon as it arrived at table; this plate is filled with tostadas de frijoles refritos con chorizo y tomate (crispy tortillas with refried beans, the same chorizo used in the tacos, and thinly sliced tomatoes). I could have eaten all six tostadas, they were that delicious. The yellow plate in the background holds freshly made chicharrón (fried pork skin) to eat by itself or to add to the pozole.
Each of us ordered the medium-size pozole, more than enough for medium-size appetites or for folks who had already eaten several appetizers. Compare the size of the bowl with the good-size avocado behind it. Our bowlsful, replete with rich pork meat, nixtamal-ized corn, and Guerrero-green broth, arrived at table just as you see this one. Behind the bowl at left are a plate of chicharrón (rear), a plate of plain tostadas, and, to the right, the avocado.
My bowl of pozole after adding condiments. I know the green in the center looks like broccoli, but in reality it is pieces of avocado just spooned out of the skin. Also in the bowl are a sprinkle of oregano, a sprinkle of chile piquín, a spoonful each of minced onion and chile serrano, and a bit of chopped cilantro. On the back edge of the bowl (at twelve o'clock) is a piece of chicharrón gordo, with a creamy square of deep-fried pork meat still attached. Next to the chicharrón is a tostada smeared with thick crema (Mexican table cream), sprinkled with just a bit of the same chile piquín. In the bowl itself, just in front of the green avocado, is a slice of sardine. Its slightly fishy saltiness added the perfect je-ne-sais-quoi to the pozole. According to my compañeros de mesa (dining companions), pozole estilo Guerrero is often served with a sardine accompaniment. The various elements of the pozole represent all of the elements of the state, including the high plains, the jungle, and the coast.
This restaurant, with well over 65 years of history behind it, has been witness to countless events important to Mexico City and the country as a whole. Here, history has been made and history has been changed, young men propose to their girlfriends and politicians plan their campaigns. During one crucial comida, the guns of opposing political factions had to be checked at the door. Jerónimo Álvarez Garduño, the gallant great-grandson of the founder, is executive chef of the restaurant that got its start long before he was born. Its beginnings, in the kitchen and living room of his great-grandmother's upstairs apartment (Number 6), were hidden from public view for the security of the restaurant's clients. Álvarez Garduño works together with his parents, Yolanda Garduño and Guillermo Álvarez López, to ensure that the great Guerrero tradition of "jueves pozolero" (pozole Thursday) continues in Mexico City.
Things are not always what they seem: arroz con huevo estrellado (rice with sunny-side up fried egg) is a typically Mexican dish--served in an atypical form at Pozole Moctezuma. Here, it's dessert: arroz con leche topped with a syrupy peach half.
After comida, ask for café de olla--normally, a special Mexican coffee sweetened in the pot with piloncillo (raw brown sugar) and cinnamon. At Pozole Moctezuma, you will be served instead with a glass of anise liqueur, a few roasted coffee beans floating on top. The restaurant has never had a liquor license, but some alcoholic beverages by other names are available: a refrescada (mezcal with grapefruit soda) to start your meal, beer to go with your pozole, and this lovely café de olla to finish your meal. Soft drinks are also served.
Pozole Moctezuma is a true, rich taste of Mexico City's yesteryear. By all means, if you are visiting the city, go. You'll be so glad you did.
Moctezuma #12 (Ring the bell to be admitted)
Monday through Saturday 2PM - 7PM
Pozole verde on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday
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