Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Green or Red?

Walk into any New Mexican restaurant and you will be faced with this query. If you aren't clued in already, the question posed refers to what type of chile would you like on your plate. While a number of varieties actually comprise "New Mexican " chile (with many varieties for both red and green chiles), each variety is characterized by an elongated pod shape, which turn red in the fall. The green chile , seen below, is harvested before the color changes and is subsequently roasted and peeled before it is consumed (Photo courtesy of roasted chile is then transformed into sauces or served as a topping/condiment in its roasted state. Wander into any major fast food purveyor in New Mexico (Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy's, Subway, Einstein's Bagels, Starbucks) and they all have green chile as a topping. Here is a more "traditional" preparation of green chile - as a sauce on my green chile chicken enchiladas.

Here is a more extreme example. Below is a green chile sushi roll (green chile maki) that I shared with my brother and sister-in-law. Just green chile, rolled in nori, rice and sesame seeds. The picture quality isn't as good since I took that one with my cell phone. It wasn't that hot and was a really great combination.

Let's not forget about the red chile. This chile is often dried and hung in ristras, which have become the de facto icon of New Mexico. Once dried, it is ground or reconstituted to make a red chile sauce that is used as liberally as that made with the green chile.

New Mexicans take their chile seriously - especially when you misspell it or confuse it with Tex-Mex chili. In 1983, New Mexican Senator Pete Domenici made note in the United States Congressional Record that “…’chili' is that inedible mixture of watery tomato soup, dried gristle, half-cooked kidney beans, and a myriad of silly ingredients that is passed off as food in Texas and Oklahoma.”

Remember this next time you add chile to your chili.

1 comment:

citrus1 said...

In real New Mexico restaurants, a good answer to that question is: "Christmas", which means both!