Mexico, New Mexico and Colorado love their green chile
Whether they are your neighbors to the north or your friends to the south, there is one thing that Mexicans, New Mexicans and Coloradoans can agree on: they have the best green chili.
“I think it’s hilarious how we really can’t even agree on the spelling of chile,” said Alejandro Navarro, 33, of Brighton who considers himself a sales representative by day and a chef by night. “Here it is more common to see the traditional chili spelling but in New Mexico and Mexico they keep the “e” in chile. Makes me laugh, you know.”
Chile verde de Mexico
Indeed the variations of green chili or green chile or chile verde abound across boarders and though the cooks and consumers may disagree on whose is better, they can agree that we are all better off having tried it.
“It’s goes far beyond New Mexico and Colorado,” Melinda Martinez, who immigrated from her native San Luis Potosí in 1997 and now blogs on cooking when she has a rare free moment away from her profession as an educator. “In Guerrero they will use a more tomatillo base for their salsa entomatada; in el Yucatan, you’ll find a green sauce that is among the mildest you’ve ever tasted; in central Mexico, Puebla and Mexico, DF you’ll taste a spicy sauce made with jalapeños and serranos; but only up north in Nuevo Leon, Chihuahua and Hermosillo do you get the chile verde.” For instance in Chihuahua the dish referred to as their version of chile verde, is called rajas verdes con queso, a combination of grilled (asados) Anaheim chile peppers, queso asadero, leche, onions, garlic and tomatoes, made into a stew. Many will add pork or beef to this dish. The dish is a soup or a side to an entree.
It’s that chile verde, the long, mildly hot pepper, that is typically used in both New Mexico’s and Colorado’s plates. From there, however, the variations are ample.
Colorado green chile
Outside of vowel usage in spelling, the principal difference according to our selected experts in Colorado’s green chili versus New Mexico’s green chile is tomatoes.
“I think the most common chile is the Anaheim pepper,” Navarro said. “That’s your base. Around here, you’re going to pick them up from Pueblo. After that the recipes vary from house to house… I mean the minutia in this is only equal to the pride of the people making the dish (laughs).”
In Colorado it’s not uncommon that green chili is served as much as a heavy condiment as it is as a main dish. Many restaurants will serve it in a cup or a bowl while also offering it as a topping for burritos, enchiladas, eggs, fries and chilaquiles.
“I’m pretty sure those chiles are used in everything now,” Navarro said. “You get them on burgers, pizza and, yup, even beer. It’s a part of life.”
New Mexico green chile
New Mexico has it’s own dilemma beyond spelling. For many New Mexicans the debate isn’t in reference to superiority over their neighbors to the north or south, it’s about color.
“Red or green?” summarized Rogelio Hernandez, 45, who immigrated to New Mexico in the early 1990s before relocating to Colorado a decade later. “In all forms of New Mexican Chile Verde you have the New Mexico green chiles and pork. After that everything else is up to you.”
Hernandez added that there are no substitutes when it comes to the chiles used in New Mexican Chile Verde.
“The New Mexican green chiles are irreplaceable,” he said. “They are grown locally and distributed nationwide so it’s hard to make a case for anything else.”
He added that Hatch green chiles are often mentioned in recipes, but clarified that Hatch is not a form of chile, rather a chile grown in or near Hatch, New Mex. As for color, Hernandez said that choice is entirely up to the consumer.
The red chile in New Mex. is made with either chile ristras (sun dried chiles) or chile powder preferably from Chimayo. Green chile is typically made with the Anaheim chile grown in either Hatch or in Pueblo. Both green and red New Mex. chile recipes call for pork.
Whatever your choice of chile when ordering in a New Mexico restaurant, one thing is for sure, your waiter/waitress will ask, “Do you want red or green chile, or both?” This combination is affectionately called “Christmas.”