Local Foods, Albuquerque
New Mexican food is different from other ethnic food that have 'Mexican' in their name.
New Mexican food is a combination of Mexican, Spanish and Native American cuisine. Tortillas, pinto beans (frijoles), papas (potatoes), ground beef, sopapillas, and chile are found on all New Mexico restaurant menus.
A variant of the usual tortilla out here is the blue corn tortilla ... it is sweeter than standard corn tortillas, smooth to the palate and a wonderful ingredient of local enchiladas (tortilla, cheese, onions, and a meat if you choose). One thing to be aware of though .... if you take your blue corn whatever home to re-heat for later, the blue leaches into the cheese and turns the cheese a terrible grey color :) Still tastes great, just don't look at your plate and you'll be fine.
Sopapillas are a variant of Native fry bread (sometimes called Indian Fry bread). It is light and airy and deep fried. The oil's heat works with the batter to create a large air pocket in the batter. So when it arrives at your table, they look like little pillows ..... don't lay your head upon them though - rip them in half and smother the insides w/ the honey on the table. Then you eat this wonderful local treat :)
New Mexico is known for it's chile, which comes in 2 colors/flavors .... red or green :)
Red chile has a sharper flavor, and I find it more hot than flavorful.
Green chile is addictive (I'm convinced it's somehow related to THC). It has a richer flavor and is usually more mild than the red. But some green chile is so hot your hair will stand on end.
'Christmas' is a phrase to use when you want BOTH red and green chile on your meal - most of my friends prefer this mix over having to choose :)
Of course, if you are a wimp like me - order your chile choice 'on the side'
Apparently, this is something locals take to heart. Chile is everywhere! The official state question is 'red or green'? As in red or green chile because they smother it on everything. Walking into any restaurant there is chile. Even in franchise places such as McDonalds they'll give you chile packets instead of ketchup.
Walk into any gift shop, you'll find chile pepper coffee, jalapeno popcorn, etc. New Mexicans like their weather hot - and their food to be even hotter! Going into the gift shops in old town you'll be sure to walk out with chile pepper peanut brittle, chile pepper ice cream (!!) or anything else you can think of.
Side note - IBS sufferers may find relief in chile pepper as it does something marvelous to your blood.
Be sure to take your camera as there are fantastic pictures to be taken of shops and homeowners drying chile peppers outside their doors.
When you order Chili in New Mexico you can get red,green or both. If you order both just say I want my chili Christmans and they will know you want both.