Adan Salas rises with the sun and arrives at El Hidalguense on Tulsa’s east side. There are fresh, fluffy, corn tortillas to be made (“and when we’re crowded, that’s a lot of tortillas,” he says), chickens to be roasted, sour cream to be concocted, and mole – dark, complex, slightly sweet, with hints of chocolate – to be prepared. That sauce, which uses four kinds of chiles, cooks for at least three hours before achieving the pure, authentic taste of Chavez’s home, Hidalgo, Mexico. This hard work and tiny restaurant with its spotless tables constitute Salas’ dream come true. He toiled for decades – picking oranges in Florida, harvesting tobacco in North Carolina – and saved money. And thanks to this labor, you can sample a dizzying blend of savory flavors in dishes like mole de olla, a fiery meat soup with ancho and pasilla chiles, or enmoladas, which are enchiladas stuffed with juicy chicken cooked in that homemade mole. Don’t expect tightly rolled Tex-Mex enchiladas (“they roll them like cigars,” Salas says). Here, they are made Hidalgo-style, lightly toasted and folded like crepes. Hidalgo, near Puebla, is part of Mexico’s prime gastronomical region … just as Salas’ restaurant shows.

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