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The 12 Hounds take on 12 Tamales... Tamale Taste Off!! Results!!!!

It’s been two years in the making... It’s required lots of planning and even a change in Household!! But this weekend, FINALLY, 10 SCARFers and 4 Hosts gathered at “Maison du Dommy!&P.” for a real deal Tamale Taste off! That night featured 12 Tamales from all over Los Angeles... there were Traditional East L.A. Tamales, 3 Varieties of Yucatecan, and even a Guatamalan Tamale!!! Yes, we survived tasting them all and then voted on each... at the end of the night after comparing notes and voting each based on their own merits (Basically, would you BUY this tamale again!) we crowned one winner!! Here’s the countdown...

#12: Flor De Yucatan Vaporcito: This was heart breaking for me because I ADORE these. But for some folks, the Tamale was a bit flat tasting. The firm texture of the masa was also a bit plasticy. The folks did note that this banana leaf tamale did have a much different taste than the others we tried... it just wasn’t a favorite...

#11: Lupitas Chile Verde: This was unique as this tamale was filled with a wonderful Pork Chile Verde stew. But it lost points for the masa being a little dry and the fillings being scant.

#10: La Indiana Chicken: I was a bit surprised this rated so low since La Indiana usually gets raves on the board. But when trying a wide variety of Tamales with various flavors, this one seemed a bit ‘dull’. In fact, I saw a few tasters add salsa on top of the Tamale... something “Las Comadres” of East L.A. would have a heart attack over... LOL!!

#9: Culver City Tamale Lady Chile and Cheese: This was one of the ‘ringers’. SO adores the Tamale Lady who sells tamales from her Mini Van in our block. So we decided to enter her to the competition. Despite the stiff competition, we think she did WELL with her small and simple Mexican Cheese and Rajas tamales which depending on the batch can be KILLER spicy...

#8: Lupitas Chile Colorado: This one faired better than the Chile Verde from the same spot because the masa was helped by the RICH Beef Chile Colorado.

#7: Tamara’s Calabacita: This was another ‘ringer’, I had to include a gourmet Tamale, so I picked this Vegetarian by Tamaras here on the West Side. The voting of this tamale was ALL over the place, as some loved it and others thought it was boring!!! But most everyone agreed that at $4 a pop... it wasn’t worth it...

#6: Flor de Yucatan Colado: This also received some mixed reviews as some did not care for the almost jello like texture of the Strained Masa. But others loved the flavor of the fresh tomato and epazote topping.

#5: La Fiesta Market Beef Tamale: Most people wouldn’t consider this little spot in the South Bay as a tamale destination. But it provided us with one of the most memorable entries of the night. Not only was the tamale absolutely FILLED with beef, but it was studded with peas and garbanzo beans!!! Definably a regional variation, but no one had any idea on what region...

#4: Guatamalteca “Chuchito”: Although I’m Mexican and adore Mexican Tamales, I was so happy to see this Central American Tamale rank so high. It not only had a great tasting filling, but also the masa had the most wonderful flavor. And the texture was just great. And to further make it even yummier, it was served with a mild tomato sauce. I WILL have these again... :)

#3: La Indiana Chile and Cheese: La Indiana managed to recover their rep with this Chile and Cheese... It was ASTOUNDINGLY good. It just wasn’t a ton of gooey Cheese and Good Rajas, but it also had great onion and tomato flavors. It was wonderfully complex. It’s now my FAVORITE from La Indiana... :)

#2: Mom’s Brazo de India: My final ringer. I asked my mother to make her famous Brazo de India so that we could have a Tamale ‘Variant” on the menu. This sauced “Tamale” Roll did SO much better than I thought!! Needless to say my mother is walking a little taller today.... And although she’s not currently taking orders, you can get this type of Tamale at Chichen Itza (They call it Brazo de Reyna).


#1: Mama’s Hot Tamales Black Mole Tamale: I was SOOOO happy to see we all crowned this the WINNAH!! As many of you know, I’m a huge lover of Mama’s Mission and of course her Tamales. This Black Mole is also my favorite of the lot. It’s rich and complex. The masa is flavorful and moist. This exemplifies what a GREAT tamale can be...

Sadly because I was manning the Steamers, I forgot to take pictures of the night. I did get some pictures of the left over Brazo de India and will post those below... Also I will post the addresses of all these places below as well... But I hope this is helpful to the Hounds at large who are still placing their Tamale orders!! It was fun to try 12 tamales in one night, but I don’t recommend it actually... LOL!!

Thanks so much again to the SCARFers who drove all over to get there tamales and were such great company that night. Our life has been crazy busy lately, but we’re both so glad we FINALLY got a chance to do this and to have this group in our lives...


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  1. Dammit, regretfully had to pass on this occasion. Would liked to have seen how my favorites from Sandra & Lolita's would have tested against these other heavy hitters.

    1. # 12 & 6
      La Flor De Yucatan Bakery
      1800 S Hoover St
      Los Angeles, CA 90006
      (213) 748-6090

      #10 & 3
      La Indiana Tamales
      1142 S Indiana St
      Los Angeles, CA 90023
      (323) 262-4682

      Tamara's Tamales
      13352 W Washington Blvd
      Los Angeles, CA 90066
      (310) 305-7714

      La Fiesta Meat Market
      15020 Hawthorne Blvd
      Lawndale, CA 90260
      (310) 263-0463

      Guatemalteca Bakery
      4032 Beverly Blvd
      Los Angeles, CA 90004
      (213) 382-9451

      Chichen Itza Restaurant
      3655 S Grand Ave # C6
      Los Angeles, CA 90007
      (213) 741-1075

      Mama's Hot Tamales Cafe
      2124 W 7th St
      Los Angeles, CA 90057
      (213) 487-7474

      1. Brazo de India/Reyna Pictures!!!

        Here is the whole loaf... it's covered in Chaya Leaves (Nothing illegal here... ;))


        Here's how it's served, in slices. As you can see the 'roll' is made of hard boiled egg and toasted pumpkin seeds and more chaya!


        And finally gets dressed up in a spicy Habanero Tomato Sauce! :



        TA-DA!!! Dommy Comfort food... :



        1 Reply
        1. re: Dommy

          So Lucky you are! Simply awesome....nothing more to say.

        2. Excellent. thanks for the posting the reviews. I'll be checking out a couple while in LA over Xmas.

          1. Pleeeeaaaaaaaseeeee try a chicken chili verde tamale from Gallego's Mexican Deli on Venice near Centinela, in Mar Vista, and tell me how you think it compares. Regular sized (not cocktail size), and it MUST be chicken chili verde. I would be surprised if it wasn't the best.

            I will try Mama's.

            1. Having had both Mama's is better. But next time we do this I will try very hard to get Gallego's into the mix. They used to be near me in Mar Vista, now we are in Culver city and have 2 Tamale Ladies come to our street.

              Take Care

              - P.

              1. No red pork tamales tested? Heresy! Those are the ones I use as a standard of measure.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Ernie

                  Yes, red chile pork is the standard by which everything else is measured. I've still not found anyone's who do better than my sister's. After 15 dozen every year for the past 25 years, hers still reign supreme. No fillers. Fresh Chile!

                  After a recent tamale class I took, these were on the agenda, and surprisingly, the chocolate dessert ones were to die for. Had to go back three times for those! Who knew?

                  You can really get out there with your ingredients, but the old standards are a source of comfort.

                  1. re: personalcheffie

                    I know what you mean. Sandra & Lolitas are OK, but still a far cry from my grandma's tamales which had a lot more meat and less masa than anything I've found out there.

                    1. re: personalcheffie

                      We had a chocolate tamale for dessert at Babita about a week ago. That was a new one for us, and I had no idea what to expect. I guess I imagined that the chocolate would be the filling and maybe would seep into the masa, but that was wrong. In fact, the chocolate and masa seemed to be totally incorporated before steaming. I'd say it was interesting before saying that I really loved it, but I'm glad we tried it.

                    2. re: Ernie

                      Well now you know, next time we do this, you'll have to come and present a worthy challenger... ;)


                    3. These are the threads which make me green with envy. Here in Richmond, VA great tamales are merely a fantasy. We have one place with passable tamales, but nothing like you describe. I'm glad you all had so much fun with your taste off and really enjoyed reading all about it! Thanks for sharing!

                      1. La Indiana's best tamale is the Red Pork followed by the Green Cheese#3 in your countdown. Nice work overall, it's got to be brutal tasting all those tamales and not losing consciousness.
                        When is the next Tamale taste test featuring "Tamale Cart Lady" style tamales? One of my favorites is still the Chile Verde at 6am-8am(horrible lines everyday) Located at 26th and Maple(below downtown LA). Don't be fooled by the "other Ladies" that show up from 8am to ?, not the same stuff!

                        1. Can you provide any more information on the Guatamalan Tamal, Dommy? I am interested in C. Am. Tamales.

                          Has anyone seen a Nactatamal anywhere?

                          1. Yes, the filling was pork and it was WELL seasoned, I'm not sure with what, but it was similar to the Recado Negro of Yucatan. The Masa seemed to be seasoned with the same flavor as well. The sauce on top, was VERY similar to a spaghetti sauce, so it kinda freaked me out at first, but it was went amazing well with the sharp spicing of the meast and masa. THe entire thing was wrapped in a corn husk, which is why it surprised me on how wonderful the texture of the masa was (I tend to think corn husk leads to drier masa).

                            Out of all the central american tamales I've had... this was my favorite because it had a bit more body than a Nacatamal or Salvadoran Tamale.

                            There are several Nicaraguan restaurants around L.A. that serve Nacatamals. They also serve it at Tamaras... but it's like 6 bucks and you have to call ahead


                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Dommy

                              Actually, the Guatamalan Chuchito filling is chicken (at least the ones I brought to the tasting from Guatamalteca). I have found that Guatamalan food is not spicy and the red sauce mentioned (it is also inside with the chicken) is a tomato-y sauce. Actually, all the Guatamalans that I know (ok, only 6) do not eat spicy food (which was interesting to find out). It is really, really good and the masa has good flavor too (which is chief complaint of mine regarding other tamales). They are definitely my favorites.

                            2. I liked Mama's Adobo Beef Tamales ~ but almost everything there sounded great.

                              I wouldn't mind twelve tamales on the twelfth day of Christmas - more useful to me than 12 drummers...


                              1. Dommy, you didn't give an address for Lupitas #8 & 11. Is that the one in ELA on Whittier? I think this is owned by the same family that owns Sandra and Lolitas. Lupitas is a favorite of a lot of people in this east part of town. Their tamales are not dry and the masa isn't real thick like many. You can also buy the them prepared but not cooked which is a nice thing since you can cook them when you want to serve.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Neta

                                  You know the guest told me they were from El Monte... I did a search and came up empty... I'll e-mail her to get more info... :)


                                2. This is a wonderful post, Dommy, and a valiant "exercise" for the sake of Chowhound...thanks! This opens up an entire new world of tamales for me and I have placed Mama's at the top of my list for yet THIS year! Happy Holiday to you!

                                  1. Wow, Dommy you are so precious for giving us all this information about the best tamales. It makes me wish I still lived in LA County. But I have copied the list and will make the trek just because I LOVE tamales. I want to compare them with the ones I get here in San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano from the Mexican take outs. Thankfully my wonderful Mexican friends know I love them and when they make them for the holidays I'm on their list.

                                    1. Wow, Juanitos & Liliana's didn't even make the list??????

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Ollie

                                        No one entered them... Perhaps you can come and stick up for them next year... ;)

                                        But actually the previous year SO and I did a Tamale craw with Juanitos and Liliana's among other famous ELA tamale joints. FWIW, my favorite was Cinco Punos...SO's was Juanitos. :)



                                      2. mmmmm, Tamales!

                                        So HOW can I be one of the SCARFERS for next year?

                                        Makes me yearn for the days the legandary "Grandma's" was still around. (sigh)

                                        But there's ALWAYS next year . . . right?