Choosing Chilis: Tijuana’s Festival Del Chile En Nogada

6th annual event celebrates traditional Mexican favorite & judges city’s best

6th Annual Festival del Chile en Nogada, Cien Años Restaurant, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

TIJUANA, B.C.– A block of Avenida Revolución between 7th & 8th Streets in became the focal point for the 6th Annual Festival Del Chile En Nogada on Sunday, August 30th from noon until 9PM. Here, a gathering of fourteen hopeful chefs and cooks prepared their version of chiles en nogada: a Poblano chili stuffed with picadillo – a mixture of meat, apples, pears, peaches and aromatics – smothered in a sweet, creamy walnut-based sauce and topped with pomegranates and parsley.

Chiles en nogada is a traditional Mexican dish typically served from late August through mid-September, around the time that Mexican Independence is celebrated and pomegranates are ripe for the picking. The green chili, white walnut sauce and red pomegranates represent the colors of the Mexican flag. The chili can also be served in a light batter, in which case the green parsley stands in for the chili.

Festival del Chiles en Nogada, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

A chile en nogada with capeado, from cook and contestant Rosario Salazar.

As with almost every Latin American cultural tradition, the origins of this decidedly Pueblan dish are somewhat contested.

Chiles en nogada was definitely prepared for the first time for emperor Augustín de Iturbide, who was visiting the region in the early 19thcentury shortly after his inauguration. There is debate among food types, however, as to whether it was prepared by the nuns at the Monjas Claris as convent, or the sisters over at the order of the Madres Contemplativas Agustinas. Regardless, the The chile en nogada, perhaps more than any other traditional Mexican dish, is a source of great pride for Pueblans and Mexicans, in general.

Festival del Chiles en Nogada, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

A contestant hard at work on his chile en nogada.

“We wanted to celebrate this authentic dish in Tijuana, with the idea of holding a festival and competition for people on both sides of the border to enjoy,” said festival organizer Jose Sparza, co-owner of Cien Años restaurant in Tijuana’s Zona Rio. “Six years ago, this was a small event at our restaurant. Now we have fourteen competitors and forty booths that represent Tijuana cuisine, Valle de Guadalupe wines and much more.”

Festival del Chiles en Nogada, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

Vendors serve cold “auguas frescas” on a warm August afternoon.

A panel of cross-border foodies led by head judge Javier Gonzalez, dean of the Tijuana Culinary Art School, sampled all fourteen of the dishes to select a winner.Alejandra “Alex” Barraza of Tijuana restaurant Hogaza Hogaza went home with the grand prize and big platter. Second place went to Ivan Cardenas and third to Michael Manzanedo and Amanda Orozco. And according to Alex, Hogaza Hogaza is serving her winning chile now through the end of the season – so go try one muy pronto!

Festival del Chiles en Nogada, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

First prize: Alejandra Barraza.

Festival del Chiles en Nogada, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

Second prize: Ivan Cardenas.

Festival del Chiles en Nogada, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

Third prize: Michelk Manzandedo and Amanda Orozco.

Visitors were also invited to try all of the chiles en nogada from the various cooks throughout the day at a cost of $120 Pesos, or about $7.20 US. Other food items on hand included pizza, Baja California cuisine and some excellent Argentinian Barbacoa form Tijuana’s Don Diego restaurant. We tried a torta of their Spanish chorizo dripping with chimichurri and mayo that was mouthwateringly good!

Festival del Chiles en Nogada, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

Festival del Chiles en Nogada, Tijuana.

Attendance at Sunday’s event was free. The festival also featured a children’s area with crafts and a dunking pool – a definite crowd favorite. Event organizers were expecting 3,000 attendees at this year’s festival. CANIRAC, Tijuana’s foundation of restaurateurs and COTUCO, Tijuana’s committee of tourism and conventions were two of the major event sponsors.

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2 Comments on Choosing Chilis: Tijuana’s Festival Del Chile En Nogada

  1. Margaret Reish Downing // September 8, 2015 at 8:00 pm // Reply

    Dear El Gringo — What are your suggestions for observing the “Day of the Dead” in Baja? (Anywhere in Baja)

    Thanks– Margaret Downing

    • Hi Margaret, and thanks for your comment!

      You know, I am not sure what happens for the Day of the Dead in Baja California. Oaxaca and Michoacan tend to get the spotlight in Mexico for their celebrations, so I haven’t dug too deeply into Baja. I did find this at though:

      “Baja California is not especially renowned for its Day of The Dead celebrations (Baja Sur more so), although Tecate in northern Baja (check out the Panaderia Mejor Pan, the best bakery in Baja, for its ‘bread of the dead’) and La Paz on the southeast coast of Baja, both have events to mark the celebration. Rosarito and Ensenada both have large cemetaries as well, where processions are held during this period. Baja offers perhaps some of the most astonishing arts and crafts devoted to the Day of The Dead theme. From tiny skeletal miniatures to $1000 paintings and life-sized papier mache figures, Day of The Dead takes on many lively faces here. Some of the top stores include Bazar Casa Ramirez on Ave. Lopez Mateos in Ensenada; Fausto Polanco (high-end furnishings and art) in Rosarito Beach and Ensenada; Alex Curios on Blvd. Popotla in Rosarito and there are many others. Tijuana, which in the past couple of years has become a tourism magnet, is offering graveyard tours, as well”

      Hope that helps!

      Scott (El Gringo)


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