The backbone of New Mexican cuisine
Green chiles are picked early in the season and used fresh; first roasted, then chopped or blended to make a sauce. Visit Albuquerque in the late summer or early fall and you are bound to see and smell chiles rotating in grated steel barrels over propane flames to loosen the skin and bring out the flavour. Stop by the downtown Grower’s Market on Saturday mornings to pick up a freshly roasted batch, or order a green chile cheeseburger from Sadie’s.
Red chiles have a smokier, more full-bodied flavour that comes from the process of drying them out on the vine. Bunches of dried red chiles called ristras serve as both decoration and easy food storage in many New Mexican homes. When ready to eat, the pod is soaked in water to reconstitute its volume and blended with water and spices to make a red chile sauce. Find one- to two-foot-long red ristras at Wagner Farm in nearby Corrales, or try the red sauce on huevos rancheros at Frontier Restaurant across from the University of New Mexico.
The best part of New Mexico’s state question is it doesn’t have to be either or. Choose red and green to sample the best of both.