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Prepared Tamales in NoVA


ktmoomau
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So my Mother brought me two large cubes of frozen tamales that were fantastic once thawed and baked. They were a present from a friend. It was so nice to have some prepared tamales that I can freeze or bake for a quick meal. Does anyone have any recommendation on where to buy prepared tamales in NOVA that are good?

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I wonder if La Union market has some off of Old Dominion and Taylor? Also, I liked TJ's green chile tamales in a pinch.

Eta: Chow thread on this topic.

Thanks for the Chow thread, Veronica's Bakery is on my way home depending on which way I drive, so I will try that. I have been hoarding the ration from my Mother as they are some darn good tamales.

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If you're into the Salvadoran style tamales (the 'wet' kind with chicken, potato, and veg - or the dry, fluffy corn ones) you can swing by Ana's Tamales at NY Ave and Fenwick street NE (Not NOVA I know, but close?). It's cash only, they only seem to be open in the morning and afternoon, and they speak little to no english... but they'll sell you tamales that are VERY simliar to most of the mexican/salvadoran spots around town for $1 a pop.

I'd bet they supply tamales to half the little places in DC.

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If you're into the Salvadoran style tamales (the 'wet' kind with chicken, potato, and veg - or the dry, fluffy corn ones) you can swing by Ana's Tamales at NY Ave and Fenwick street NE (Not NOVA I know, but close?). It's cash only, they only seem to be open in the morning and afternoon, and they speak little to no english... but they'll sell you tamales that are VERY simliar to most of the mexican/salvadoran spots around town for $1 a pop.

I'd bet they supply tamales to half the little places in DC.

The main difference between Mexican tamales and the ones made in Central America is that in El Sal, Guatemala, etc. the prepared masa is cooked in broth like a porridge prior to being wrapped, with a filling, into a banana leaf. Mexican tamales are made with raw prepared masa. Mexican tamales can be wrapped either in corn husks or banana leaves, depending on the location, but the prepared masa is never pre-cooked. Mexican tamales take longer to steam, understandably.

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The main difference between Mexican tamales and the ones made in Central America is that in El Sal, Guatemala, etc. the prepared masa is cooked in broth like a porridge prior to being wrapped, with a filling, into a banana leaf. Mexican tamales are made with raw prepared masa. Mexican tamales can be wrapped either in corn husks or banana leaves, depending on the location, but the prepared masa is never pre-cooked. Mexican tamales take longer to steam, understandably.

Mexican tamales are so much better, imho. OP didn't specify though.

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The main difference between Mexican tamales and the ones made in Central America is that in El Sal, Guatemala, etc. the prepared masa is cooked in broth like a porridge prior to being wrapped, with a filling, into a banana leaf. Mexican tamales are made with raw prepared masa. Mexican tamales can be wrapped either in corn husks or banana leaves, depending on the location, but the prepared masa is never pre-cooked. Mexican tamales take longer to steam, understandably.

So how would you describe the difference in flavor? Is it that the ones that are cooked in broth prior to being wrapped don't get enough time to develop flavor, or is there a texture difference?

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So how would you describe the difference in flavor? Is it that the ones that are cooked in broth prior to being wrapped don't get enough time to develop flavor, or is there a texture difference?

Well, I can't wait for Zora to respond, but I come from the Juarez/El Paso border and the tamales I grew up with had a much thinner masa shell with a very spice meat filling. The "Salvadoran" tamales in my neighborhood have a very thick, uninteresting shell and very little meat. I call them very filling but boring (and not worth the calories). Seriously, when I would go home to visit the 'rents, there were always tamales in the freezer that my mother would buy from people selling them door-to-door or that her maid would make around Christmas time. When I found myself throwing one in the microwave for breakfast, I knew it was time to get back to DC. :)

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Well, I can't wait for Zora to respond, but I come from the Juarez/El Paso border and the tamales I grew up with had a much thinner masa shell with a very spice meat filling. The "Salvadoran" tamales in my neighborhood have a very thick, uninteresting shell and very little meat. I call them very filling but boring (and not worth the calories). Seriously, when I would go home to visit the 'rents, there were always tamales in the freezer that my mother would buy from people selling them door-to-door or that her maid would make around Christmas time. When I found myself throwing one in the microwave for breakfast, I knew it was time to get back to DC. :)

I'm not a certified expert, but I've lived here for a bit, have had the pleasure of dating a few Texans, and also lived in the south for a bit, so I've been lucky enough to do some in-depth investigation of tamale variations. The description above of 'porridge-like' or even custard-y is pretty accurate for the Salvadoran style. They're near mushy and have less meat. Not necessarily bad, but... different. They look like this.

Those "on the border" style are mostly meat and don't have that slickness from the cooked masa. Think something like this.

I might be wrong on some of this but lord knows my Texas exes never were... consider this a premature apology if I'm talking out my gringo/yankee mouth.

(and of course, there's also the fluffy salvadoran tamale de elote, which is damn near cornbread in my book. And then there are New Orleans/Delta style hot tamales, which are a completely different animal as well.)

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Does any place make tamales without loads of trans or saturated fat? All the recipes I read calls for shortening or lard. I love tamales but I never eat them anymore after I read the recipes.

You may rethink your objection to lard after you read this.

So how would you describe the difference in flavor? Is it that the ones that are cooked in broth prior to being wrapped don't get enough time to develop flavor, or is there a texture difference?

I watched Salvadoran tamales being prepared on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives the other night (by the owner of a Sal-Mex cafe across from Eastern Market, as it happens). She cooked the masa like polenta, and added a bunch of Goya seasoning, cumin, etc. to it as she stirred. The meat filling was pork shoulder that had been spice rubbed, slow roasted, pulled, and then almost pureed in a food processor. She was rather generous with the amount of meat she put in each tamale. Guy Fieri was effusive, as usual, in his praise. And he is a Californian, and has to be accustomed to Mexican tamales, as am I. Even though I mistrust his enthusiasm, I'm curious to try her tamales. The very few Central American-style tamales I have eaten around here have left my tongue totally asleep.

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You may rethink your objection to lard after you read this.

Thanks for the article.

Even saturated fats–AKA, the bad fats—are not nearly as deleterious as you would think. True, they will elevate your bad cholesterol, but they will also elevate your good cholesterol. In other words, it’s a virtual wash.” Taubes continues, “Foods considered more or less deadly under the low-fat dogma turn out to be comparatively benign if you actually look at their fat content. More than two-thirds of the fat in a porterhouse steak, for instance, will definitively improve your cholesterol profile (at least in comparison with the baked potato next to it); it’s true that the remainder will raise your L.D.L., the bad stuff, but it will also boost your H.D.L. The same is true for lard. If you work out the numbers, you come to the surreal conclusion that you can eat lard straight from the can and conceivably reduce your risk of heart disease.”

I'm just not sure that I'm ready to believe that.

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I've always been a lover of the plain unadulterated tamale with no other fillings. There used to be a great place on 19th Street* that served them and that is my benchmark. It's been too long to recall the details of how the texture was, but my boss swore that they were different than what was sold everywhere else around. I guess my question was asked with the plain tamale in mind, and wondering about the flavor and texture of the corn, instead of the amount and flavor of the filling.

* As I recall it was "underneath" another restauran;:either in the space that is now occupied by a hair salon, underneath the former Cafe Asia space, or underneath Jerry's (now Tandoori Time).

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I've always been a lover of the plain unadulterated tamale with no other fillings. There used to be a great place on 19th Street* that served them and that is my benchmark. It's been too long to recall the details of how the texture was, but my boss swore that they were different than what was sold everywhere else around. I guess my question was asked with the plain tamale in mind, and wondering about the flavor and texture of the corn, instead of the amount and flavor of the filling.

During fresh corn season, the green corn tamale is very popular in Mexico and the Southwest. It has no filling, is just fresh corn mixed in with a small amount of masa, fat and broth, wrapped in a corn husk. It's kind of like steamed corn pudding, a bit sweet. I love them.

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Mexican tamales are so much better, imho. OP didn't specify though.

I like Mexican better, but didn't specify as I am open to both, since we have so little real Mexican food in this area. I can always make a side with a little flavor or some meat to compensate.

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I'm just not sure that I'm ready to believe that.

There is scientific basis for what the quote said; however, genetics largely play into that as well as overall diet and exercise. I must say, I think I recently glanced at how Asian genetics play a large part as to why our acceptable LDL/HDL average levels are naturally higher than other nationalities, but cannot remember why.

Eta: Honestly, person needs a certain amount of fat for multiple purposes to function.

Edited by goodeats
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Does any place make tamales without loads of trans or saturated fat? All the recipes I read calls for shortening or lard. I love tamales but I never eat them anymore after I read the recipes.

I would agree about hydrogenated trans-fats, like vegetable shortening. However, lard is, AFAIK, classified as an unsaturated fat: it is actually 60% unsaturated. So lard shouldn't be lumped into the same category as shortening, and if it comes from hogs raised outdoors, the lard also contains CFAs, which are cancer fighters. A little lard ain't so bad!

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There's a young woman in Marina del Rey, in Los Angeles who has a business called Tamara's Tamales. She makes about twenty different kinds of tamales, some meat-filled, some veg and cheese and some vegan, some sweet for dessert. I chatted with her about her tamales, and she told me she uses the same masa preparada for all of the tamales, made with margarine. She uses chicken or pork broth for the meat-filled and vegetable broth for the vegetarian and vegan tamales. She says she would love to use lard for her meat-filled tamales, because masa preparada made with lard tastes so much better. But there is such a deep-seated prejudice about lard in the caucasian neighborhood where her cafe is located, that she wouldn't be able to sell them. She is an all-American looking blonde, who says her mother is Mexican and father is Anglo. The Latina and Maya women who work for her make their own tamales at home with lard, she told me. "They're so delicious!"

Even made with margarine, her tamales are very tasty--especially when they have just come out of the steamer. They are Mexican-style, wrapped in corn husks. If you are ever out in L.A., she is located on Washington Blvd., just east of Lincoln, across from the entrance to Costco. (there's an In-and-Out Burger place at the entrance to the Costco parking lot, but given the choice of a fastfoodburger and a freshly steamed tamale, I'm going with the tamales...)

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Those "on the border" style are mostly meat and don't have that slickness from the cooked masa. Think something like this.

That's exactly what I'm talkin' about. My Godmother, who was brought across the border as an infant to escape Pancho Villa (!), used to make sweet tamales at Christmas. None of my family liked them. Sweet tamales just strike me as wrong.

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I prefer a very well made Salvadorean tamale to any Mexican tamale I have found in the metro region, so far.. The ones I like have soft, wet, almost gelatinous masa, wrapped in banana leaves, and the best ones in the NOVA area are to be found at a gas station on Rt. 28 just east of Manassas, just west of Manassas Park. Sorry, I don't know the cross street but very close to the Guapo's in Manassas Park. Major intersection, and you can see the place from the road (Old Centerville Road it is called there.) It is on the left side as you drive west.There is a storage facility on the other side of the parking lot.

The meat is honest chicken, with chunks of potato and some olives. Freshly prepared every day by lovely ladies from El Salvador, and obviously targeted to local laborers. When I am in the area I always stop by, and find myself eating the tamales with my fingers as I drive back. Dos tamales de gallina por favor and muchas gracias. Greasy but good.

Next time I go there I will edit this post to give the street address.

Most local Salvadorean tamales have really crummy meat, with a lot of skin and bones but I still prefer the wet masa.

I have yet to have a good Mexican tamale here. Maybe spoiled by the New Orleans/Delta version, which is legendary.

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I have yet to have a good Mexican tamale here.

After a great Christmas with Mom's tamales, I want to "keep it going" and have been disappointed by locally made tamales too.

Has anyone ordered Tamales from DC-based tamalero. Ofelio Crespo? He was profiled on NPR yesterday by Brenda Salinas. There are no specifics in the article about how to contact him.

Ofelio Crespo is a tamalero who lives in Washington, D.C. He is usually out of bed by 5 a.m. and spends his mornings making gallons of salsa on his stove to pair with his tamales.

<snip>

Crespo's tamales are in the style of the Mexican southern state of Guerrero where he was born.

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