Sunday, October 16, 2011

Food of New Mexico- Feel the Burn

     Do you like food so hot that it burns all the way through your system? Do you like beans to be the majority of every meal? Is your favorite side item a dry tortilla? Then Northern New Mexico is for you.
     Ok, it wasn't that bad. But is was vastly different from my beloved Southern Food. So different that I had digestive troubles for a week in a half. The last few days of the trip I only ate food from the tourist restaurant (read: mild and inoffensive). It was necessary for my own well being.
     Here is something you might now expect: in all the food we ate there were no black beans or salsa. I don't know about you but whenever I've ordered "Santa Fe" anything it is smothered in black beans and salsa. Thins Santa Fe chicken, casserole, eggrolls, etc. In reality every dish came with pinto beans and chili sauce.
     I was fine with the pinto beans. They are a little bland, but fine. The real issue I had was with the chilies. There was chili sauce on or in everything. Everything. And I don't mean a sauce with chilies in it or sauce with a lot of hot pepper added to it. It was chilies cooked and pureed. No other ingredients to take off the heat except my tears.
    Which brings me to the dry tortillas. At first Ben and I were confused why they kept giving us side dishes of dry tortillas. Even with things lite burritos which are already in tortillas. After some trial and error (and then confirmation by a local) we realized that the tortilla was to cool your mouth off. Ta-da!
     I have to give it to the people of Northern New Mexico- they are consistent with their food. It is like they had a meeting and agreed that frito pies, navajo tacos and stuffed sopapillas should be on every menu.  Frito pies are a big deal over there. They are fritos, pinto beans, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese and chili sauce (which was like our kind of chili with hot chilis added).
    Navajo Tacos and Stuffed sopapillas are both made with the same base- Indian fry bread. It a little hard to describe. The bread is flat and square, but is puffy from being fried. For the tacos they are folded over and for stuffed they are cut in half and, well, stuffed. I, as a good Southern girl, think that we should invest some time in learning to fry our bread. Sure, we have hush puppies, but they put their fry bread with sandwiches, burgers, practically anything. Catch up. I'm looking at you, Paula Dean!
     Of course, we had more food adventures than that. We had a really excellent dinner at a restaurant called Mica. We ate a ton of honeyed sopapillas. We ate vendor food. But all of that is normal stuff you  could find anywhere. I wanted to give you a taste of what made New Mexican food unique and worth the burn.

PS- There were still Mexican food restaurants out there. They are very clear that Mexican food and NEW Mexican food is completely different- God help you if you say they are the same thing. Honestly, I'm still trying to figure out the differences (but don't tell them that).

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