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Oaxacan Tamales in Woodside

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As I passed by the street vendor under the LIRR tracks at Roosevelt/61st St, I noticed that the vendor has a sign for tamales Oaxaqueños. The first time I went, they were out, but tonight, he had a few left, and I got a oaxacan pork tamale (they have chicken too). For $3.00 you get a pretty massive tamale, and it's pretty good. Not the greatest. Maybe it's unfair to rate one bought at the end of the day after they've been steaming all day. Wrapped in banana leaf, it was a bit on the dry side, but the pork was pretty tender and the mole (not a traditional mole negro) was just spicy enough. All in all, not bad, especially since I don't have to trek all the way to Sunset Park for these. Hopefully they'll keep selling them. Other places that have sold oaxacan tamales around Jackson Heights/Woodside have stopped selling them for one reason or other. By the way, they're also selling elotes (corn on the cob with mayonnaise, cheese, and chili powder) for $1.

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  1. wow, sounds interesting...i'll have to check it out.

    so what are your tamale recommendations in sunset park? do you like rico's tamales (the old lady in the red shack on 5th ave--not sure if she's still there)? if not, what other places are good in that nabe? people on this board have been raving about matamoros for their tacos al pastor...

    4 Replies
    1. re: sjw

      you can get oaxacan tamales (at least they are called oaxacan - I wouldn't know how authentic they are) at the unmarked "Cafe con Flores" shop on 4th Ave. between 10th and 11th. They are spicy and good. I generally like their other tamales as well, though I did get a dud my last time there a week ago.

      1. re: sjw

        I know I'm late to this posting... but, the place in sunset park that sells the best oaxaquenos (and possibly the one Eric is referring to) is rico's tamales on the corner of 46th and 5th ave. It's a bright red tamale stand - can't miss it. They serve the best ones I've had in NYC. I find them to be very good, though the competition, as Eric said, isn't too great around here. In fact, I think I've only had one other oaxaqueno in NYC at all - it was from the (then called) hidalgo grocery in astoria. But it was pretty dry. Rico's are very moist - spoonably moist.

        Eric - thanks for the heads up on this place in Queens. I'll have to check them out.

        1. re: adamclyde

          You're right, I was referring to Rico's Tamales in Sunset Park. As for the 61st St vendor, I could never keep track of who they are, since the personnel keeps changing, and I think it's a different cart than it was since last year. Interestingly, I noticed a little hand-painted sign on the cart that said "Ricos", but I doubt it's the same one from Sunset Park.

        2. re: sjw

          i'm not sure there actually is a store called "ricos tamales" anywhere. there are several places in SP with signs that SAY "ricos tamales" but that just means "good tamales" in spanish -- it's probably not the name of the store.

          i would also say that i have not had reliable great tamales in NYC. i have had very good one here and there but the experiences have been basically non-repeatable.

        3. I've been meaning to try, but like you said since many of tamales I've tried around Woodside were not that great I've been hesitant to try. Sometimes, late at night I catch a lady who sells tamales and arroz con leche for a buck from a steaming pot discreetly hidden under garbage bags in a granny shopping cart, walking down Roosevelt ave. Have you had hers? How do these two compare?

          6 Replies
          1. re: welle

            I'm not sure if you're asking me about Oaxacan tamales or tamales in general. Truth be told, most of the tamales in NYC are in the "good enough" range, where there's not a real gap in quality, besides the differences in the filling. That's because you can't find tamales made with fresh masa in NYC. Now, if you're asking about Oaxacan tamales, I guess I would give the same answer, except they're such a rarity in NYC, though they're not necessarily true to the traditional Oaxacan recipe with mole negro (something else I've never really seen in NYC). I've tried tamales from a number of stands/carts along Roosevelt, and mostly felt the same way. They're all about the same -- pretty good. But none move me like the ones I've had in LA.

            1. re: Eric Eto

              I've seen (and confirmed with the vendor) mole negro tamales under the LIRR tracks. I haven't tried it yet, so I can't vouch for their authenticity.

              1. re: Joe MacBu

                Are you talking about the tamale cart or some other vendor? If it's the tamale cart, they don't use mole negro, unless they've added it recently.

                1. re: E Eto

                  I'm referring to the tamal cart on the N side of Roosevelt between 61st/62nd, under the LIRR (check the attached photo on my post above).

                  I think it is a recent addition since I'd never seen it there before last week. I saw a bit of black goo on a tamal as the dude was searching through his batch. I asked him if it was mole, and he confirmed that it was mole negro. I wasn't in the mood for it at the time.

                  Despite the Oaxacan references, this guy is from Puebla, like almost every Mexican in NYC (as far as I know). However, I do like the "Tamal Oaxaqueño" a lot, authentic or not.

                  1. re: Joe MacBu

                    Oops. I didn't see that you attached a photo. That's the same cart that I was talking about in the original post. Seems like the mole negro is a recent addition. Or maybe they use mole negro for the chicken and mole rojo for the pork. Like I said in the original post, these tamales are OK, and enjoyable as a change of pace from the regular ones. I should try them earlier in the morning and see if they're better when not steamed all day long.

                    1. re: E Eto

                      They're definitely best earlier in the day. The times I've gotten them around 11am, they have been moist, tender and blissful. The regular ones served up at 2pm are no longer ethereal. That's why it's better to get the massive Tamal Oaxaqueño ($4) in the afternoon; the size allows it to remain moist for a longer period.

          2. d
            david sprague

            haven't tried the Oaxacan tamale, but they're pretty reliable in general -- the rajas con queso are nice, and i think they're a buck. the elotes are among the better i've had...

            1. He keeps his cart in front of a building on 62nd St. just north of Roosevelt and sets up under the tracks only for the morning and evening rush hours. There is a halal cart there other times that has just recently appeared, and sometimes folks selling cheap fruit. I actually prefer his poblano (corn husk) tamales to the oaxacans, but then that's something of a matter of personal preference, as those are the ones I grew up eating.

              I wonder why good masa seems so hard to come by in NYC. We certainly had it in Michigan back when i was coming up.

              1. You can get wonderful tamales at a Mexican bakery in Broolyn on Cortelyou just east of Coney Island Avenue. What is so special about these is the masa - orange colored, loaded with achiote. $1/per. Weekends only.

                1. I've been going to this cart for years...in fact, I wrote about them a few times in the site's early years. And last week I finally was able to score one of the Oaxacan tamales. I asked the dude if it was a real Oaxacan tamal. "yeah, yeah....real oaxacan tamal" he replied in spanish. I told him I was recently in oaxaca "great, great....you were just in oaxaca" he replied. As he packed my tamal, I asked him if it contained real mole negro. "yeah, yeah,mole negro it is".

                  Anyway, baloney.

                  It's not a oaxacan tamal. It's his regular tamal, double portioned, in a banana leaf. The masa isn't finer, ala oaxaca. And that ain't mole negro. You can tell by the fact that it's not black. it's red, like the red tamals.

                  Still good, though.

                  Anyway, my take on it is that he's not so much trying to fool the gringos, as doing his Puebla best to serve something exotic to his favorite Pueblans. "Ooh! Look! Banana leaf instead of corn husk! That's how I heard they do it in Oaxaca!!" Sort of like how a few decades ago if a kitchen in, like, Ottawa melted some cheese over something, they'd call the dish "a la Italiano".

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Jim Leff

                    There's never been mole in this Tamal Oaxaqueño.
                    The tamal with mole is smaller sized and not always available. If you need to confirm before purchasing, one end is usually not closed and you can see the black filling.

                    I think the Oaxaqueño is a little different than just a double sized raja. Aside from the banana leaf, I find the sauce to be different and it also contains chunks of chicken skin (which I've never encountered in the smaller tamales). Authentically Oaxacan or not, I find it to be a delicious scam.

                    1. re: Joe MacBu

                      I found the chicken skin, too. I didn't realize that was a "feature"....

                      1. re: Joe MacBu

                        Oh, you're talking about those small chicken tamales with mole. Yeah, those are just OK, and it's not mole negro. That guy at the stand was just being agreeable, like he was with Jim. You won't find mole negro in a corn husk tamale. It was probably mole poblano of some sort. I wouldn't be surprised if it's from a Doña Maria jar.

                      2. re: Jim Leff

                        I searched high and low in my tamale and didn't find mole. Its red stuff. Pork was a little dry. It filled my stomach but nothing to rave about. It did remind me of a Chinese sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf, but I think I'd rather eat that.
                        Yeah that isn't Oaxacan and I was quite dissapointed.

                        1. re: designerboy01

                          walked by him today and kept walkin

                          ty for the reviews these last few weeks