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Nov 29, 2007 07:29 AM

Christmas Tamales

So I've been asked to bring something to christmas eve dinner in seattle this year, and I got to thinking about tamales. Not only are they a traditional food to eat this time of year (at least for me), but they represent all that great mexican food I'm likely going to miss in the northwest.
Plus, I don't think my anyone in my fiancee's family has ever eaten one.

Well, it just so happens that I'm driving the entire length of california just before christmas eve, so it's possible for me to make a stop pretty much anywhere and pick up a cooler-ful of the best tamales I can find.

So I pose to you:
Where can I find the best tamales in california, and how do I contact them to make a serious tamale pickup? I'll be travelling through San Diego, LA, Santa Barbara, SLO, Salinas, San Jose, and over to the five (fairfield, redding, etc).

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  1. The taco shops that sell them usu ask for a pre-order (tey are time consuming to make) and I have seen advertising within in Santee already. Also I know St Stephens Catholic Church in Valley Center will be selling them the Sunday before Christmas and also for St Guadalupe's Feast day...

    Perhaps if you want to pick up in San Diego, look/inquire at your local favorite Taco Shop.

    In the summer, I would take a cooler to El Porvenir (near the Coronado Bridge entrance) and tell them to fill it with tamales for pick up at 10 a.m. the next day and they would still be warm when I took them to the beach...or Ballpark.

    1. I know just the place - one of my favorite stops in Escondido: Tamales Ancira!

      Every tamal that I have had from them has been excellent but my favorites are the chicharron, nut and raisin, sweet corn, and rajas con queso!

      12 Replies
      1. re: kare_raisu

        Awesome! I know I could count on the resident mexican gurus. Rajas tamales? Yum!

        1. re: Jeters

          If you're driving I-5, the Chula Vista or Pacific Beach locations would be easier to get at rather than Escondido.

          For Oaxacan tamales, El Chiapaneco on Market St, east of I-5 here in San Diego.

            1. re: kare_raisu

              Sorry I haven't responded to this...I hadn't seen it until today. My wife works on Market St and happened across it on a lark one day, came home with a couple of the mole and a couple of the pork. First impression was that they were sensational, creamy masa and a nice fillings. The mole was a bit different as it had a slight bitterness to it that I'd only once come across in a mole prepared by a friend's mother. His mother was from the, it seemed to me that a Yucatecan mole simply has this characteristic. Is that to your recollection?

              The pork quickly turned into my favorite. Moist, flavorful filling.

              My wife would bring home some of the mole and pork tamales from time to time, but had trouble figuring out which days the Yucatecan-style tamales were made and so it was a hit and miss proposition when she'd drop by. She never brought home any of the corn husked tamales since she was so impressed by the Yucatecans.

              I went down there last month and the place was closed at 1pm on a Thursday for some reason and haven't been back since. It didn't look like they'd gone out of business, yet, there they were, closed during usual business hours. Perhaps they were having problems of some sort, I don't know, but if it's permanent then San Diego has lost more of the diversity in Mexican food that it sorely needs.

              Anybody know the story?

              BTW, the tamales off the cart directly across from the former Tacos El Pais on Imperial are quite good. If you're down there you might want to pick some up.

              1. re: deckape

                Want to know more about the preparation of tamales? This is the week for it! Look here for a pictorial:


                1. re: cristina

                  Nice! I like the advice for the recalentados...

                2. re: deckape

                  Your assesment of the Mole tamal is spot on, especially with the connection you draw to Yucateco mole, which I first tried 2 weeks ago in the Mission of SF.

                  I can definitely see the parallel, in that it the moles are very simple and mainly just sweet, and do possess that bitter edge. I think this is characterized by Yucatecos affinty for the sour taste...naranja agria (seville orange) and heavy vinegar uses in their dishes.

                  Chiapas was the highland Maya territory after all.

                  Tamales Chiapeneco is the only representation of the food of Chiapas I know of - even Jonathan Gold of the La weekly - says its the only state not represented in LA/

                  They also have a cart down on Imperial - which could be the one you mention or Juanitas or the Oaxacan lady.

                  1. re: kare_raisu

                    After reading that Jonathan Gold article (ignoring that Mexico has 31 states... and he only lists like 8 then says the only thing not represented is Chiapas)... he asserts there is Campeche cuisine? Other than some non-Campeche places listing Campechanas executed in a very non-Campeche style... I wonder what he was alluding to? If there really is a place peddling dishes like Campeche style Pompano in Hoja Santa this would be huge.

                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                      A little OT but there is Hoja Santa at Rancho Mendoza today. Large fresh healthy...more in the back in none out front.

                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                        I am thinking we should email and ask him - hopefully he answers. I read some of his real old post on Sinaloa cuisine which were really well written.

            2. re: kare_raisu

              I go to their PB location on Garnet. I really like the red sauce on the chicken and beef ones. Their salsas are really tasty too.

              Be sure to call ahead and place an order if you want a lot or if you need specific kinds though -- they're often out of one or two types (cooking, but 20 minutes away from being ready) when I just drop in.

              1. re: kare_raisu

                Oh Yum! Tamales Ancira is so bookmarked for later devouring. Thanks! My sweetie loves tamales.

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                  1. You don't say whether you'll have time to stop and taste test. If you do, I'd reccommend that you stop in Santa Maria and take a 5 minute detour to the Tamale Shop.

                    I can't say they're the best anywhere (while they are substantially better than most restaurant tamales I've had) they are freshly made every morning. here is a post about them:


                    phood has also posted a review:

                    good luck and happy traveling!