NM State question, red or green, help please [Moved from Southwest board]
Going to be Southwest in Sept. Have been trying to educate myself a bit on SW food. Seen many comments referring to to red v. green. Are they much the same, just made with either? Is there a much more fundamental difference than just which pepper forms the base? Which is hotter by nature?
Have seen posts from ex-NM residents or recent visitors who need a "green chilie fix" but don't recall seeing the same passion for red. Verrrry interesting, and perplexing since I lack an understanding of the issue.
What could be said to be the basic difference between New Mexico v. Mexican dishes?
I know I've broached a lot of subjects but any responses appreciated. Thanks.
You're absolutely right, one of the key differences between red & green chile is paraphenomenal: the latter seeps into people's souls in a way the former can't quite. Who knows how or why.
I agree with Caroline1's observation that New Mexican food includes elements of Native American cooking (which in my view makes it quite distinct from Mexican food—which, in any case, doesn't mean just one thing, varying from region to region like any other country). Blue corn's another example: it was the Pueblos who were big on multicolored corn crops.
My intention isn't to be argumentative, but I am wondering why you draw the line at the U.S. border when it comes to Native American food impacting on local food traditions? Native American food is where "Mexican food" comes from.
Just to clarify what I meant, all of the southwest -- New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, California, originally were claimed (at least in part) by Spain, then were part of Mexico, before each, through varying circumstance, became part of the U.S. "Mexican food" is not one simple master menu that is consistent from borders to seas. Every area of Mexico and those U.S. states that were once part of Mexico have undergone the same food transition process in that native food, whether Aztec or Apache, Huichol or Navajo, was initially influenced by Spain's food to eventually become "regional Mexican" as we know it today.
In that sense, TexMex, for example, is just as "regional Mexican" as the food of Chiapas or Chihuahua. The "Anglo" impact on "Mexican food" in the southwestern states takes "Mexican food" no farther away from its origin and makes it no more unique than, say, German influence on beer in Mexico, or the Mennonite influence on Mexican cheese. So in this sense, "Mexican food" does vary from region to region, just like the food of any other country.
How much of the forest you can see depends on how far you stand from the closest tree. '-)
Yes, I mostly agree with what you're saying—I should've been more specific. I mean those specific tribes that inhabit NM have shaped the cuisine there in a particular way, just as other indigenes shape the cuisine elsewhere. For that reason, I think it is qualitatively different from Tex-Mex, which is qualitatively different from various local Mexican cuisines, and so on. They also, of course, overlap.
Not sure I agree that Tex-Mex is regional Mexican any more than it is regional American. At any rate it's hybridized in a way that regional differences within borders are not.
But ultimately this may be semantics, and we're saying the same thing. After all, Caroline1, I always enjoy reading your informed take on things!
Having lived in El Paso for <mumble><mumble> years, which is about as close as you can come to living in New Mexico without paying NM state income tax, my experience is that New Mexicans like to try to cauterize your mouth with the first bite more than anyplace else that serves either TexMex or Mexican food. But maybe things have calmed down a bit.
Not every set of taste buds perceves chiles the same way, so what you may find scorching hot, someone else may find just right, and vice versa. If you find you've bitten off more than you can comfortably endure, milk, honey, or sugar will help tone down the burn. Do NOT drink water. Only makes it worse.
Whether green chile sauce or red is hotter (I'm talking enchiladas, or sauces served over foods) can vary from restaurant to restaurant. It's usually helpful to ask the wait person whether their green or red is hotter.
Basic difference between New Mexican and Mexican dishes? Actually, none. New Mexico used to be part of Mexico, so the variances are the same as you find in regional variances within Mexico. However, in some parts of New Mexico, you may find the local dishes and traditions are influenced by Native Americans more than other areas, and again, which pueblo of Native Americans also makes a difference. But these areas are almost microcosms. Sopapillas, for example (basically deep fried "bread balloons"), are Native American in origin, even though you find them commonly served as a complimentary dessert in many Mexican restaurants. At one time, they were known as "Indian fry bread." When you're served some, break open a corner, line liberally with honey, and try not to drip all over the front of you! They're really really good, especially when just fried.
Things that are a bit different in New Mexico (and far west Texas) than they are any place else are the chile rellenos, which are made with Hatch (New Mexico grown) chiles and more commonly stuffed with cheese. Other places often tend to use poblano peppers and stuff them with ground beef or chicken. Gorditas are also more common in those parts than other places. They are sort of like a small fat corn tortilla that is deep fried until the outside is crispy, then split open, the soft part scraped out, then stuffed with meat, cheese, lettuce chiffonade, and diced tomato. Really good, and you're normally served a fresh salso to dose them yourself. You might also ask whether a restaurant makes their own mole. If they tell the truth, and the answer is yes, chances are you'll be missing something special if you don't give it a try.
For the best food in any given area, I love stopping at a gas station in a small town and asking where to eat. You can find some real pleasures that way. And do try to make it to at least a couple of New Mexico's famous Native American pueblos. Ask ahead if they have a restaurant that shouldn't be missed. And if you're into souvenirs, I highly recommend hand made pottery. Santa Clara and Santa Domingo pueblo potteries have done especially well. I bought a black 8" Margaret Tafoya (Santa Clara) bowl in the late '50s for under five bucks that is now worth thousands, so lucking out on a souvenir can turn out very well! Especially look for pieces signed on the bottom by the potter. But I never dreamed it was an investment. I really lke it. Which is the best reason for buying any souvenir. Should you find yourself in a place that also has some Navajo pottery, the very best bean pot I have ever owned was a round bottomed Navajo pot. They're "glazed" with pine pitch, which gives an incredible flavor to things cooked in them. And don't trust a shop that tells you Navajos don't make pottery.
If you have the time and transportation, try to do the whole state. And if you possibly can, make a trip to the Ruidoso, Cloudcroft, Lincoln area. Incredible pine forests no one thinks of as "typical New Mexico," but they are! For an upscale but delicious dinner, try Inn of the Mountain Gods, in Ruidoso. Owned and run by the Mescalero Apache, and really quite impressive. Lincoln, New Mexico, is Billy the Kid's old stomping grounds, and home of "The Lincoln County War." Tons of history there. "Trinity Site," where the first-ever atomic bomb was detonated is also in southern New Mexico, and open to the public once or twice a year, so if that interests you, you might check on the dates. But don't eat there! The area is still radioactive, which is why they restrict people to roped off pathways. '-)
In the north, if you must do Santa Fe (rather touristy), then do not miss the opera house! Unique architecture and really impressive. I'd ask in gas stations about where to eat so you don't pay tourist prices and end up eating tourist food. Nothing beats better food at lower prices!
Anyway, like anywhere else in the world, there is great food and not so great food, but it's spread equally all over the state. Have a great trip!
I really enjoy both red and green chile. As the article linked to describes green is ripe New Mexican chile and red is then dried. Green is roasted and has a fruitier flavor while the red chile typically has an earthier flavor. For me, it's a matter of mood as to which I choose. As far as which is hotter it's going to vary from restaurant to restaurant and day to day. Ask your server which is hotter that day. You can also order just about everything "Christmas" which means some of each. It's a nice way to compare which you prefer with which dishes.
I can add that typically yes, green will be fruitier, and red will be earthier, but sorry, rlryan, since all chile does not come from one vat, there will be exceptions to the rule - each restaurant will make its own chile, and part of the fun is trying it all! Green will tend to be hotter, but it will vary from time to time depending on the crop, so yes, asking which is hotter will help your selection. One of my fondest memories of living in Albuquerque was the first time I went to a Burger King, and ordered a whopper in the drive through.
Me: I'd like a whopper, no ketchup, please.
Voice: Red or green?