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Chile-seasoned chicken tacos (Adobo de pollo taco)

Updated: Oct 11, 2022

A good taco starts with a great filling. I love a great taco, but in India, I have yet to find any decent Mexican cuisine. All the standard Mexican chillies are available, but Indians tend to shift towards the standard Indian red chilli powder rather than the authentic Mexican chillies destroying the dish. As a result, I have taken to making my own dishes whenever I crave Mexican food, which is often.

This chicken in adobo is absolutely supreme. The three varieties of chillies, ancho, guajillo, and costeño, come together beautifully in a thick seasoning that is sweet and spicy. The chicken and soft potatoes are enveloped in rich sauce. The flavour is deep and tantalizing, this is probably the best chicken taco recipe I have made to date. It will be one I make again, and again. I served the tacos with Three beaks of the rooster salsa and Stewed white beans on both soft and crisp shells. No cheese, no cabbage, nothing else to dilute the flavour of the adobo.

This is a massive opus from Diana Kennedy on the cuisine of Oaxaca, Mexico. She has received both Mexico’s Order of the Aztec Eagle and membership in the Order of the British Empire for her contribution to Mexican cuisine and her work in the region. This tome brings alive the cuisine, the culture and the people of the region. Oaxaca has been fondly referred to by chefs as the land of infinite cuisine, and Diana has published this exhaustive volume on this region. This volume can be considered as pedantic work or a coffee table book, but it loves in my kitchen with the recipes begging to be brought alive. This is a book for any serious chef.


3 large chicken breasts or 6-7 boneless chicken thighs

1/4 cup mild vinegar like apple cider vinegar

1 cup water

3 tablespoons salt

2 ancho chillies

4 costeño chillies

10 guajillo chillies

4 cups water

Soak chillies overnight completely submerged

1 lb tomatoes, chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

1 tablespoon Mexican oregano

4-5 garlic cloves

3-4 tablespoons oil or lard

3 cups water

1 large Mexican or regular bay leaf

1 lb baby potatoes, left unpeeled and whole

2 cups water

Salt, to taste

Start by soaking the chicken in vinegar, water and salt for 1 hour.

If you have soaked the dried chillies overnight, then de-stem them and remove all the seeds adding the chillies to a small blender. If you have not soaked them overnight, add them to hot water and soak them for 30 minutes. Save the soaking liquids.

Add the strained soaking liquid, tomatoes, cloves, pepper, cumin, oregano, and garlic to the same blender as the chillies and purée to a smooth paste. You want to break up all the soaked chillies not leaving any bits of skin. If you cannot get a smooth paste, strain the purée through a fine-mesh sieve extracting as much of the purée as possible.

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the chicken and fry, you may need to do this in batches so that the chicken does not stew but is fried to a golden brown. If you have cooked the chicken in batches add all the chicken back to the pot and add the puréed chillies and simmer on low heat for 10-13 minutes till the sauce has thickened and the oils begin to float to the surface.

Add the potatoes, bay leaf and water, seal well with a lid, and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Check frequently that the liquids have not completely evaporated and that the sauce is not sticking to the bottom of the pot. Adjust water as needed. At the end of the 45 minutes you want a very thick sauce with very tender chicken, it must shred easily between your fingers.

Cool the dish, remove the chicken and chop it into bits. Chop the potatoes into bits too if needed. Add back to the sauce and mix in well. Taste for salt. You are looking for a gorgeous mole that is beautifully flavoured, bold and gently spiced. If the mole is kept aside, it tends to thicken, add water to bring to a sloppy consistency at the time of serving.

Serve hot with crisp and/or soft tortillas, guacamole, salsa and pickled jalapeños.

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