Coming from Tennessee, I was well aware that the Mexican food from home was not authentic, but I had no idea how different it really is!
First of all, when you order just about any Mexican dish in the SW you get asked “Red or green?” This question seriously threw me for a loop until I realized they were talking about types of chilis. For those of you like me who thought all chilis were pretty much the same, you’d be wrong as well. A lot of times, chilis are used rather than meat in many traditional dishes, like enchilladas and quesadillas. Green chilis out here are not jalapenos, but are for the most part grown in Hatch, the self-proclaimed chili capital of New Mexico, and are referred to as Hatch chilis. They have an amazing intense flavor, but be warned: it takes a minute or so for the heat and spice to really register, so if you’re first bite is large, or if you start shoveling you’re food out of the gate, you might regret it! I personally don’t like spicy foods for the most part, but the flavor of the green chilis is too much for me to pass up 🙂 As opposed to the gren chilis which are roasted before being prepared, the red chilis are simply dried first. Although they aren’t normally as picante as the green variety, red chilis are typically found in more sauces and can be considered a bit more pungent in terms of flavor.
Another big difference that I’ve come across is the idea of Mexican food for breakfast. Back home, Mexican restaurants are like most others in that they are only open for lunch and supper. In the Southwest, however, you can find many Mexican eatteries open for breakfast, selling things like breakfast empanadas, tamales and specials like green chili, cheese and egg sandwiches.
So far I’ve found two specific Mexican restaurants that really speak to me. The first is Chihuahua’s. Named after the region of Mexcio directly south of El Paso, Chihuahua’s is located in Las Cruces, NM and is only open for lunch. Although the prices seem a tad steep at first, the green chili enchilada plate is to die for and the portions are so large, one order has enough leftovers for an additional one or two meals. The other delicious Mexican place I’ve discovered so far is Probaditas located in the Outlet Shops at El Paso, TX. This particular eatery is located outside in a small stand, but appearances are completely deceiving. They sell a variety of Mexican snacks and desserts, including the most incredible flautas, which are flour tortillas usually with chicken or pork filling, rolled up and deep fried. Unhealthy? Yes. Delicious? Absolutely. Even when it’s freezing outside, it’s totally worth it to stop and try some of their dishes.