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May 18, 2006 01:08 AM

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.