January 2, 2020
I view tamales as “Mexican Christmas Wrappings” and it’s all the Christmas I needed.
There are many ways to make tamales and wrap tamales as there are families. The indigenous fillings were turkey, venison and fish. Some people use banana and avocado leaves (commonly used
along the coast and filled with fish) in lieu of the corn husk (hoja). And, yet others use foil or parchment paper around the hoja. And, most currently I have learned that people substitute the hoja for a paper wrapping made from a true vegetable parchment (this method replaces the hoja). The well known company Tampico makes a specific tamale wrapping paper (papel de tamale)that is resistant to boiling water and tearing. In terms of folding or wrapping your tamale there is the most commonly used diaper-folding method. Tying both ends with strips of hoja like strings and also tying with one single hoja ”string.” I know that in Puebla tamales are served as a pancake with fish. “Mexican tamales differ from one region to another in the fillings and leaves used to wrap them. Here are some of types you can find throughout Mexico:
In Culiacán, Sinaloa they use small sweet brown beans, corn and pineapple.
In Veracruz they use corn and pork seasoned with hoja santa.
In Oaxaca tamales are large and seasoned with black, yellow and green molés.
Tamales in Monterey are small and made with smooth or coarse dough filled with red chilies and strips of meat.
Tamales in Yucatán are seasoned with achiote and baked or cooked in a pit with chicken and pork fillings.
In Michoacan tamales are wrapped in corn leaves and have no filling.
The largest tamales come from Northwestern Mexico where they cook them in large pits or bake them in ovens. These tamales can be three or four feet long and use coarse masa filled with pork seasoned with red chilies.
I recall Mi Mama making a tamale that was larger than her usual annual tamale, it was huge! She had some Oaxacan girlfriends who had taught her how to make this variation. It included the regular pork meat with molé in addition to a julienned potato and carrot, raja de Poblano chile and a couple raisins. These had to be tied at both ends because of their size. Of course they were delicious and a complete meal…….including dessert!
I have previously written on many aspects of tamale making; a favorite topic, or anything associated with Mexican food. The humble indigenous foods of my ancestors are now considered avant-garde with a recent influx to restaurants in Mexico City such as Pescadería El Puerto de Alvarado, Masala y Maiz, Rosetta, Molino el Pujol, Carmela y Sal, the New Berlin, Expendio de Maíz Sin Nombre, Tamales Madres and Restaurante Nicos to name a few.
I’m not a gambling woman, but if I was, I’d place my money on the street vendors “puesto” or push cart vendors. This is where I’ve had some of Mexico’s most delicious food on paper plates standing along the paved and unpaved streets, some lit and some unlit, as we say in Spanish “ para chupar se los dedos,” finger licking good! All this writing about my ”raíces” makes me want to hop on a plane right now directly to La Capital for tacos y tequila. Te invito Mi Corazón?
I recall a few years back, I was flabbergasted to find Williams Sonoma selling tamales for $60 a dozen. I was initially taken aback, because as a child I remember they sold for $10 a dozen. Now 60 years later they‘re basically the same price $10. to $20 a dozen! Granted, I know when people sell them they are usually small and do not have a lot of meat. But, if I compare that price to the amount of work involved in making them. People should be selling them for a lot more, I’m not flabbergasted at Williams Sonoma prices any longer! I’m selling mine for $80. a dozen! Mi Mamá was the most generous and kind-hearted person I knew, but she was funny about gifting her tamales. She would gladly gift you all the fudge and cookies you wanted, now I understand why!
Abrazos y Besos
Thank You, Father