New Mexico is NOT Arizona, Tex-Mex, and it’s NOT in Mexico either. New Mexico is a strange place with odd values and some fricking awesome food. If you’ve been wondering what New Mexican food is all about, this blog should help clear up some things for you. And because I grew up there learning to cook from the abuelitas, I know a thing or two about this. Here are the basics:
Red or Green?
If you’re going to visit, you’re going to be asked “red or green?” You don’t even have to be eating, someone is going to ask you. That fact is, New Mexican chilies (pronounced chiles) are very special vegetable (technically a fruit) with an incredible flavor. Other places have tried to grown them, but they aren’t the same. That’s because these pepper grow in a unique environment that give’s them their district flavor—there is nothing else on the planet quite like them. Here’s what to know:
- The best chilies come from Hatch or Chimayo, New Mexico.
- Chile can be turned into chili, not vice versa.
- Salsa Verde in not green chili.
- Christmas chile is a thing—red and green.
Traditionally the tortillas are made from flour not corn. Corn tortillas came from Mexico (actually from the Mayan Indians). On Occasion you might see a corn tortilla in New Mexico, but they are made blue corn. But for tortillas, it’s all about the flour. The flour tortilla goes back to the Navajo Indians as a part of trading wheat for other goods. Here’s what to know:
- Tortillas are made from flour and they are thicker, chewier, and somewhat cake-like. They are not your traditional thin tortillas you find in the supermarket.
Although New Mexico’s number one crop are the chilies; corn is not far behind. The corn is usually blue or it’s boiled (pasole). The best ways to enjoy the corn is in a blue corn pancake, pasole strew, or in an enchilada (served flat, not rolled up). Tamales are especially popular, but they are harder to find because they take forever to make.
If you head out for a bite, at the end of the meal, you will probably be given a basket of deep fried bread—sopapilla. What can I say, cover them with honey, honey butter, or stuff chilies inside of them and enjoy. New Mexican’s don’t dust them with cinnamon and sugar. The other major treat is the bochondita. These are anise flavor cookies fried in lard. YEP—lard!
- Piñon. New Mexico has lots of tree nuts. The most special ones are the piñon (pine) nuts and they fetch a pretty penny.
- Beans are huge. They are never refried; they are always whole beans usually covered in cheese.
- Tacos are not a traditional New Mexican food. You might see some, but it is a newer addition.
- Avocados don’t grow in the desert climate of New Mexico. Although guacamole is common today, it really isn’t apart of traditional New Mexican cooking.
Here are most popular entrees:
- Green Chili Stew. Eat this like a rip and dip with a homemade flour tortilla. Check out this recipe.
- Carne Adovada. Slow roasted red chili pork
- Stacked Enchilada.
- Smothered Burrito, not wet!
- Frito Pie. Just look it up, I don’t even know why this is so popular, it just is.
- Pasole stew. That’s right, boiled corn stew.
- This is summer squash usually served in the fall.
- Sopapillas at every meal!
I decided to write this blog because so many people seem to wonder what New Mexican food is all about. Perhaps this doesn’t fit in with our topic of marketing perfectly, but once you try these chiles (even if you don’t like spicy food) you’ll be hook. My hope is that more people will want to try these things so that we can have them in the north.