It got all the way from its home in Mexico to the tables of Southwestern families and restaurants for a reason. Posole is easy to make, share, and customize, and like Mexico's cultural equivalent to chicken noodle soup, it can hardly do wrong.
But unlike chicken noodle, posole is best served fiesta style.
The traditional soup is made out of only a few ingredients that vary from chef to chef (e.g. chicken or pork, hominy, chickpeas, and red peppers and cumin for spice), and is just as much about the basic stew as it is the toppings you add to it. It's not uncommon for a party to share up to 10 bowls of toppings, from shredded cheese and sliced avocado to radishes, diced onion, cilantro, sour cream, and lime juice to taste - more is certainly merrier.
Many restaurants that serve posole do so seasonally, or when they have the necessary ingredients, making it hard to locate on an impulse. We've tracked down two that vary in flavor and style: Gallo Blanco's sit-down posole in Central Phoenix and Eddie's House, who serves posole only one day a week at the Old Town Farmers Market in South Scottsdale.
May the best posole win.
In One Corner: Eddie's House
The Good: Out of a half-dozen Old Town Farmers Market vendors preparing fresh food to be eaten on spot, this season you can always count of Eddie's House to be serving up bowls of their dynamic posole. What started as a common red soup, both spicy and refreshing, has switched to a heartier, much chunkier version without the red spice and focused on the addition of black beans and onion. The flavor of the herbs used stands out, and what might seem like a small cup, at a price of six dollars, fills you up quicker than you'd imagine.
The Bad: Okay, the herbaceous flavors and the taste of the black beans, stewing for hours, have been absorbed by the chicken and hominy to the point where they dominate the cup. It's not a complete cover up, but it's close. We won't count them off for not having the toppings (after all, it has to be to-go and market friendly), but boy do we wish there were at least some lime to squeeze and cheese to sprinkle on top.
In The Other Corner: Gallo Blanco
The Good: It's a large portion, and the complete do-it-yourself building of toppings remains intact. At first it will be served to you in an un-assuming fashion, in a white bowl with cloudy, colorless broth, and some hominy floating around - but it's the side plate of goodies consisting of cabbage, avocado, dried oregano, diced onion, and half of a lime they bring out next that seals the deal. Last but not least is a small cup of black pasilla chile paste that is meant to be added to the soup, which mixes to become the rich and spicy flavored, thin-bodied broth that we love in posole. Mix this innovative twist all up with the toppings and you'll discover the wealth of shredded pork that's been hiding beneath the surface.
The Bad: Our biggest complaint is that, from the way the menu reads, one would never know Gallo Blanco sells a mean posole that can be treated as a full meal for one. Also, it's hard to bash tortillas the come with the meal, but for a Mexican restaurant they're surprisingly meh - bland, rubbery in texture, and perfectly useless to sop up leftover posole broth with.
The Champion Is: Gallo Blanco, by a long shot. Not for the added toppings (that would be unfair), but for flavorful pork and hominy that remain separate from the flavor agent of the pasilla chile paste, until it's your turn to add it in yourself. At eight dollars it's more bang for your buck, even when you consider in that at the market you pay Eddie's House for the convenience factor. Heck, with that money you spent more of but more effectively, you could even buy yourself a glass of horchata sweetened with piloncillo.
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