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Apr 15, 2007 08:34 AM

Tamales Chiapaneco (SD) Report

I finally made it to this tamal-focused restaurant at 25th and Market yesterday. I bought two tamales - one bannana leaf wrapped pollo en mole and another which was chicken en salsa roja but with the special teplin herb also utilized as a flavoring agent in the masa.

This is a barebones hole-in-the-wall but a nice family-run operation. The name [Chiapeneco] had for a long time interested me as it is the adjective of those from Mexico's most southern state Chiapas. I had hoped for some food specific to Chiapas but due to the low Chiapeneco immigrant population this family [from Tuxtla Guitterez] makes the usual suspects on the weekends [birria de chivo, menudo, posole, & barbacoa] in addition to its varied tamal menu.

The tamales menu consists of three variation wrapped in bannana leaf [hoja de platano on the menu] and about 5-6 in corn husk / hoja de maiz.

all $1.50

Pollo en Mole
Puerco en roja
Pollo en roja
Rajas (1.25)
Puerco R/G
Pollo R/G
Dulce (think Nuez/Pasas and Pina)

The son - who mans the front speaks very good english but the other workers do not. The woman outside at the cart is especially friendly and knowledgable if you speak a little Spanish.

There is another cart outside the Ranch Fresco Market a little south on C. Chavez on the E/W running street just one street down from Las Quatro Milpas.

After some pleading with the nice young man w/re. to Chiapeneco comida he did say that if I am here on a weekend mama makes comida then I am more than welcome to partake.

He said that his favorite dish his mother makes is Lentejas con Platano (Lentils with Plantains) which sounds enticing enough to me.

I had the mole tamal last night for dinner - the masa was the cocido varient typical of the Oaxaquenos that I have had from Ortiz and in LA - much more firmer. Excellent corn flavor, perfect ratio of Manteca-masa. The mole which is indeed house made while very tasty slight sweetness, little if any heat [typical to Chiapas] - was just a little to much. I like a little sauce to cut the masa but this was a tad too much. Moist, nice amount of dark meat chicken which stood up to the sauce was enclosed
All in all - a really nice change from my Oaxaquenos overload.

Of the two I enjoyed the Chicken with Teplin herb the best. I absolutely loved the taste that this herb intermixed with the masa permeated the corn dough. Its hard to describe its subtle slight flavor, so I will refrain from doing so. Chicken and salsa was excellent, this time just enough sauce with the creamy masa.

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  1. Nice report. Good find.


    1. Hi there Kare,

      Good info. I'm always on the hunt for different tamales. It seems like an obvious choice for tamales but I haven't been down to San Diego for tamales. Guess that's where I'll be heading next. I'd never thought about why I have not ever had the chance to try tamales chiapanecos - great commentary. I'm hoping to make it up to San Francisco next weekend for a tamale tasting in fort mason. I'm hoping I'm not the only chowhound to go up there - if anyone else makes it please tell me what you found in case I don't make it - sounds like there'll be a varied collection of tamales in one place I think I've had my share of tamales oaxaquenos and the general available tamales -- I'm looking for something different looks like you found something I need to try on 25th and Market!

      5 Replies
      1. re: tiamarty

        Have you found any unique tamales in your area? What are your favorites?

        1. re: kare_raisu

          My favorite - because they are so consistently good - is at this little joint called Cinco Puntos on Cesar Chavez and Lorena in East L.A. . They also make some of the best Nopales I have ever had (aside from mama's that is) and fresh hand made tortillas. One of my favorite things to do when I get the craving is to get some of their tortilla's, nopales and queso fresco and sit in the parking lot and whip out a few 'burrito' de nopales - a warm, simple hot off the press lunch.

            1. re: DiningDiva

              I forgot to mention that the tamales at Cinco Puntos are traditional Mexican tamales but they are SO good. I've never been disappointed.
              In terms of different, I haven't found anything really different though there is the Mama's Hot Tamales that I will check out soon and venture into the different tamales they have on the menu. Oh, forgot to mention Tamara's Tamales in Culver City - she had a chocolate tamale - I was prepared to hate it but it was so good. She has at least 19 tamales on her menu.

              even tamales de Epasote.

              (I know. aren't I the lucky one to have Cinco Puntos, nopales and a parking lot! - this makes me happy)

              1. re: martasiete

                I have a chef friend (in Mexico) who makes a dynamite chocolate tamale for his restaurant that he serves with a fruit coulis/puree. They are indeed wonderful.

                I've made and eaten tamales, flavored with strawberries that are really good, or with chicharron which is exceptionally good. I've also made tamales that we used cochinel to color the masa. It was very cool.

                25 years ago I lived in Culver City and you couldn't find a tamale to save your soul. Of course, you couldn't find much of anything to save your soul back then ;-). You really are lucky.

                My biggest beef with tamales is that too many times they end up being way too dry either due to lack of enough filling or masa that wasn't properly prepared, or they end up like little lead pipes because they're too wet and too dense.

      2. KR, excellent work.

        I think the "teplin" herb you are referring to may actually be "chepin", which is used very widely in Southern Mex.

        2 Replies
        1. re: DiningDiva

          thank you DD, Thats it! I wasnt sure.

          1. re: kare_raisu

            Maybe you are referring to "chipilin," an herb commonly used in tamales in Chiapas and Guatemala.