Found: beautiful tamales
So: I've always loved corn, I've always loved corn products, and I've always known that the *idea* of a tamale, the very *concept* of a tamale, was a marvellous thing. But most of what I've had has been... well, greasy and disappointing. Some good stuff, but never anything magical, until...
Tamara's Tamales, in Venice, on Washington, by Costco. I chatted with the counter-woman, mostly just to have an excuse to keep lookin' at her eyes, and happened to ask her what her favorite tamales were. She told me Chicken Verde and Machaco Beef. Boy, was she right...
Oh, the pumpkin tamale, special for Halloween, is also a lovely experience. Old flavor, new texture context! Yum.
(Warning: take-out only after 6:30. And if you're taking them home, be sure to get the tamales cold... they degrade rapidly once heated, as I found out sadly last Friday.)
The tamales were good but the reason I don't go back is that they are very small and outrageously expensive. I do give them credit for motivating me to make my own. They are cheap as dirt to make and I make mine meal sized. I needed about 4-5 of them for a meal and at $3.00 EACH it was crazy. They were OK but not all that good. The girl that co-owns the place is quite attractive (blonde?).
Two of my favorite sources for tamales are across the streetfrom each other (don't know the east side or Huntington park so well, sorry). One is the oaxacan tamale at Gueleguetza on 8th street, steamed not in corn husk but in leaf (banana? looks like lotus leaf you get jungdzi in in Chinese restaurants). The corn masa is perfect in texture and the mole and chicken are amazing.
ACROSS THE STREET at the corner of 8th st and Irolo is one of the best finds in LA. On Saturday evenings around six in the parking lot of the Jons/Vons whatever are four Hispanic ladies selling homemade tamales (with meat, chicken, vegetarian , and sweet Xmas tamales this time of year) as well as atole (sweet corn drink). The tamales are $1 each and while I can't vouch for safety, I've never been sick from them, they always taste fresh and I think they're great (corn husk wrapping).
YOu can always try La Adelita on Santa Monica Blvd near Gower. They sell masa for tortillas and tamales and I think I remember them selling tamales as well as a ton of other mejicaniana.
And try a nicaraguan place for a nacatamal if you're crazy for masa.