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Jul 29, 2000 11:32 AM

Tamale alert on the West Side!

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Fresh home made Tamales are back. I used to see a Mexican fellow selling homemade Tamales on the SE corner of 95 + B'way. When a new bldg started being built he was gone. But, yesterday morning just in front of my newsstand (W side of B'way 93-94th St's) @ 7am was a Mexican woman selling freshly made Tamales from a coleman cooler! W/my bad Spanish I asked her if she was here on a regualr basis. I think she said that she sells these Tamales every Am. I was too groggy and shocked to buy them then but I will try ASAP and report back. Tamales a gift from god!

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  1. OH MY GOD. fresh, homemade tamales. Is there any way, with your "bad Spanish" if you might be able to find out from the tamale woman if she knows of any where/any one further downtown who sells them?! 95th at 7 a.m. is really far for me. Thanks!

    16 Replies
    1. re: Dorcas

      I will try but the best thing is to walk around any neighborhood w/a Mexican population. The west side has a whole bunch of folks from Mexico. Also, a good place to check out is any park on a weekend. If you see people playing "strange sports" not speaking Gringo then there is a good chance you can get home made ethnic food!

      1. re: Ivan Stoler

        There is also a tamale-selling woman usuallly at 106th and Amsterdam, and they are very good.

        1. re: hanspetersen
          Kelly Monaghan

          There's a small vegetable stand run by a family from Puebla on the south side of 207th St, betw. B'way and Cooper, that sells home-made tamales on Saturday and Sunday.

          They have two styles. One has very pale corn flour with a cheese and chili pepper filling. Mildly spicy. The other has a darker, almost red corn flour stuffed with chicken. Spicier.

          I'm no tamale expert but they taste great to me.

          Speaking of which, does anyone know where I can taste a primo tamale so I'll have a basis for comparison? And what's a good thing to serve alongside store-bought tamales? Although they're tasty, I find them a bit dry alone.

          1. re: Kelly Monaghan

            Tamales are great drenched in some kind of sauce (a raw or cooked red salsa, or a mole), or, as they are often served in parts of Mexico, in a bowl with soup ladled over, such as mole de olla (not a mole in the sense you're thinking), though these are usually plain unfilled tamales.

            The color difference in the tamales you're talking about isn't due to different kinds of corn flour (I'm pretty sure there's just there's just yellow, white, or blue, and undoubtedly the masa she's using is the ubiquitous white, whether she's using masa harina or getting it fresh from a tortilleria (or making the fresh masa herself, which is romantic, but doubtful), but rather from mixing things into the masa along with the lard--a little mole or pureed chiles, as is sometimes traditional with a chicken filling.

            All you tamale freaks should try making their own; they're quite easy once you get rolling (though use fresh lard--it's a crucial ingredient, and the white supermarket blocks make for a rather nasty tamale--and if corn husks are too fragile and messy, use cut-up banana leaves, also traditional, and available cheaply in Asian markets and some Mexican), and they reheat well (whether refrigerated or frozen) problem is that when they're off & back on the heat they can get heavy/gummy (which is why you put a penny in the pot to hear when the water's gone)--you'll notice these tamale vendors' tamales don't have the extreme lightness you get with fresh tamales in Mexico.


            1. re: Nils

              Where can you get fresh lard? Or, do you make it yourself? Can that be done easily?

              1. re: Bilmo

                I just make it myself; you can usually get lard at any fairly-large butcher shop (esp one that specializes in pork), but it's fairly flavorless (though at least not completely flavorless like the supermarket stuff)..latin or eastern european butchers generally have good roasty lard, but I haven't found one here that carries lard. To make it yourself, look in almost any authentic mexican cooking book, or just get a pound or two of fresh pork fat (you'll probably have to call ahead to your butcher--tell them it's OK, even preferable, if it has some stray meat on it), chop it finely, then sprinkle in a single layer in a roasting pan and roast in a 400-or-so oven until all the fat is rendered (maybe an hour or 90 min). strain and store.

                1. re: Nils

                  Thanks. I'll give it a try. I've found the supermarket lard, rather than being tasteless, to be repulsive. I don't know if it's rancidity or the preservatives.

                  1. re: Bilmo

                    One other thing. I was under the impression that lard was rendered from not just any kind of pork fat, but from pork fat from specific parts of the pig. I think the fat around the kidneys, or the back. Do you think it really matters?

                    1. re: Bilmo

                      wow, it's lard crazy around here.

                      the definition of lard is rendered pork fat; maybe you heard that because some hypothesized that some fat has more flavor? the most important thing to getting the true roasty porky flavor (necessary in mex & eastern euro cooking) is rendering at a high heat & having some meat in there with it while it's rendering.

                      also, mexicans use the dregs of the lard vat as a delicious tortilla spread called asiento (in addition to eating the little "crispies," kind of like mini-chicharrones [fried pork rinds]), which i approximate by grinding some chicharrones (just buy fried pork rinds at the supermarket) with the lard. this is also nice whipped into the masa for tamales, or just mixed in with the masa mixture of any masa-based antojito (appetizer).

                  2. re: Nils

                    There's a pork store in the Village very near the restaurant Po. I think it's something like Faicco and it's on Bleeker. I sort of drooled on their window the last time I was in NY. I bet you could get some sweet and creamy pork fat there. pat

                  3. re: Bilmo

                    go to any latin grocer and ask for "manteca"

                    1. re: Jim Leff

                      The stuff at Latin grocers is fresher that what's available in supermarkets? Is it a homemade product, or simply a matter of turnover?

                      1. re: Bilmo

                        no, it's surely fresher at butchers and supermarkets. Nils' suggestion was a good one. The stuff at bodegas is prepackaged.

                        I was just giving you fast easy fallback option! And while I've never cooked with it, I suspect it'd work fine for most uses (though I'm grimacing in anticipation of more knowledgable people saying that's totally wrong!), since a whole lot of grandmotherly types buy it in Latin nabes.


                        1. re: Jim Leff

                          Most bodegas have Hormel manteca, which is just their crappy lard packaged in Spanish, but I hear Goya manteca (equally cheap and pretty easy to find in Latin groceries) is better; I haven't tried it since my fall-back lard is Faicco's ($1/pint--fresh, but still pretty tasteless). Another suggestion--just melt some--or a lot of--bacon fat into your lard. Mmmmm.

                2. re: Kelly Monaghan

                  The Tamale lady has NOT been where I 1st spotted her last week. Maybe she's the same lady @ 106 & Amsterdam. AS for the best Tamale...fresh, hot and homemade and not mega sized.

                  1. re: IVAN STOLER

                    Latest Tamale post...The tamale lady has been @ B'way between 94-93(west side) for the past two days. She sells chicken tamales for $1.00. They are nice, fresh and tasty though I should carry some hot sauce w/me. She also sells Horchata (the rice n milk drink) and is from DF (the capitol and very friendly).