Chile Ristras, New Mexican beauty

Often, people wonder what the hanging strings of drying chilies adorning restaurants, patios, and many places throughout Albuquerque, New Mexico. These drying strings of chile are called chile ristras. 

Red chile ristras are quite decorative, but their value goes much further than that. In terms of flavor, the dried red chilies take on a more complex profile due to the aging process during drying. Once dried, the Hatch chilies are often used in a wide variety of New Mexican chile sauces. Dishes like carne adovada and enchiladas use plenty of these delicious New Mexico chiles.

When I visited Albuquerque, I noticed so many different designs and shapes of ristras decorating large areas of the cities. If you walk through Old Town, you will find ristras hanging at nearly every shop and restaurant. In the northeast heights, Farmers Chile Market has many displays of ristras with different colors, different chilies, or even special shapes like hearts and wreaths. There is a lot of information about chile ristras on their website. If you have more questions about this topic, there is even a chile ristra faq too. Every time I’m in eastern Albuquerque, I will make a point to visit their stand at 2010 Eubank Blvd NE.

In general, ristras make up a big part of the fabric of the Southwest. You can see them in Arizona, California, Texas, and even Colorado. Hatch, the chile capital of the world, is where most of them come from. Tying ristras is something that just about every New Mexican from a farming community has done before. It is not too difficult to make with twine, but I highly recommend wearing gloves. Ristra making is a great chile tradition in New Mexico. Another great tradition is roasting fresh green chile. Although I prefer eating red chile off my ristra, green is a great chile that is easy to prepare while also being delicious and nutritious. 

Chile is an integral part of New Mexico, and visiting a chile roaster is a necessary thing to do when traveling there. If you drive through Albuquerque on I-40, get off on Eubank going north and go until you see the big tent at the corner of Eubank and Snowheights. Park your car and marvel at the beautiful variety of ristras. You have arrived at my favorite place to get chile ristras in Albuquerque. Maybe getting a ristra and experiencing chile roasting up close will become your favorite thing to do in Albuquerque too.

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Christophe Rude

Christophe Rude

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