I love living in Las Cruces, NM. As a transplant from Los Angeles, CA, delicious incongruities catch my eye, such as a sushi roll named after internationally renowned Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo.
I asked my waiter what ingredients had the Mexican sushi chef included to make this Japanese treat relate to Frida? He explained, “Spicy hamachi (yellow tail) on the inside, plain hamachi on the outside, with jalapeños, sriracha sauce and cilantro.” Hot, hot, hot!
Those ingredients seem appropriate in describing the famous artist whose memorable unibrow, stormy marriage/divorce/ remarriage to famed muralist Diego Rivera, and colorful lifestyle became the subject of a 2002 American film, “Frida,” starring Salma Hayek.
Other surprising food combos pertinent to Southern New Mexico have captured my eye and my palate. One of my favorites is green chile frozen custard. The local frozen custard stand cooks the chiles with sugar to the consistency of marmalade resulting in a sweet yet piquant sauce that tops the frozen custard. Addicting!
Green chile beer doesn’t do much for me, but I love the flavor of pecan beer. And what about chile pecan brittle? Fantastic.
Hatch green chile burgers sold at Sparky’s are legendary and a must visit when entertaining out-of-state visitors. Now that this establishment has been named the third best hamburger stand in the country, regular trips there have become mandatory.
At my local wild bird supply shop, they sell chile bird seed. “Doesn’t the heat negatively affect the birds,” I asked? “Not at all,” the owner assured me. She also told me that a benefit occurs after the birds eat the seeds. What passes through them keeps away the squirrels.
In California, I frequently ate enchiladas, but eating them New Mexico style is a wonderment. New Mexico writer and cultural vortex, Denise Chávez, introduced me to the local tradition. At first, enchiladas with a fried egg on top seemed strange until the yolk ran out, mingled with the cheese-filled red-sauced tortillas creating a yummy combination of flavors. Nowadays, that’s the only way I eat them.
Norine Dresser is a folklorist whose physician, to her dismay, has recently warned, “Lay off the chiles!”