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Dec 31, 2007 03:24 PM

North Park Produce - El Cajon Blvd. + Tamal Cart Notes

This was the first time that I have been to this store; I have only been to the one in Poway. I have to say that I really enjoyed visiting it -especially in how it seems to have evolved into the specialty market for not just one sd immigrant group - but all - in the greater El Cajon Blvd. area. There is a bunch of interesting items to keep you busy if you are into unique foodstuffs.

On a side note there is an intriguing tamal vendor who stakes out in front of the store. 'Ricos y exquitos tamales Oaxaquenos" the cart bills itself. The woman looks as if she may hail from the Costa Chica. In my recollection - there were 3 varieties offered in the bannana leaf & 4-5 in Corn leaf . Across the street is another vendor.

Picked up some motes - with the hope of making some ecuadoran food.

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  1. I normally go to the one in Poway. Is the NPP in El Cajon better ?

    4 Replies
    1. re: honkman

      I like the EC better. The Poway is much more spacious though and seems much more Mid-East centric than the EC locale. Pretty much the same amount of offerings in the cheese and olive department.

      1. re: kare_raisu

        The one IN El Cajon ( on Chase at Avocado) or the one ON El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego?

          1. re: kare_raisu

            There are three locations now, KR, and Honkman said IN and you did not correct him...

            I thought I saw a cart in front of the El Cajon City location in November.

    2. Saw the cart there on my last visit. Looked for real. No English spoken. But I had just ODed on tamales at a festival near Yuma.

      NPP has some remarkable things. Even real corn tortillas (nothing in them but corn, water, trace of lime).

      5 Replies
      1. re: Ed Dibble

        So Ed, just to clarify,you're saying that the corn tortillas are nixtamalized corn and not Maseca? If so, I'm headed over there ASAP.

        1. re: DiningDiva

          DD - I know El Tigre has an in-house tortilleria that cooks their own corn with cal in big vats - you can see them cooking it sometimes. Same with Northgate - if I can recall correctly from my last visit there about a year ago.

          On a side note - I read that if you use cooled water that you boil with the husks of tomatillos - you can get a puffier homemade maseca tortilla because of a yeast like affect the husks contain. Have you heard of this?

          1. re: DiningDiva

            That's another issue. I just mean that the tortillas don't have guar gum and all the other additives that most grocery store tortillas have. I don't recall ever seeing the distinction you mention listed on a label.

            1. re: DiningDiva

              DD, do you imply that many corn tortillas made in San Diego are NOT made of fresh masa? The machinas I've seen at Pancho Villa market and other tortilla factories certainly seem to be using fresh masa, rather than reconstituted maseca. Am I mistaken?

              1. re: Joseph

                Yes, that is exactly what I am implying. A vast number of corn tortillas are made from Maseca. Next time your in Pancho Villa or Northgate or some of the other local tortillarias ask them if they make their masa from Maseca or from fresh corn. Don't be surprised if the bulk of them respond Maseca. If they say fresh corn ask them to show you how they nixtamalize the corn and the grinder they use to process the prepared corn.

                Many tortillas produced in San Diego are made from fresh masa...masa made from Maseca.

          2. Tamal Cart:

            The tamales we tried from this cart were the best street food we've had in San Diego so far. My wife and I like the tamales from across the street (there is a cart outside of the liquor store at 35th and El Cajon Blvd), but I was intrigued when I saw this new cart at NPP's location in City Heights. The store itself is my 1st stop for produce, especially fruits, greens, olives, feta and Middle Eastern items (Pancho Villa and Trader Joe's are my 2nd and 3rd most frequent choices).

            We tried a couple in platano (banana leaf) and a couple in maiz (corn husks). The masa was smooth, soft and flavorful, suggesting the tamales had been made that morning. Chicken and cheese fillings were good, but the pork was amazing. It reminded me of the braised pork at Chilango's (late, lamented). The banana leaf ones were thinner but wider, and had a hint of tropical flavor from the steaming banana wrapper (an extra layer of aluminum foil helped keep them warm on the way home. At about $1.50 apiece, these make a great appetizer or lunch.

            2 Replies
              1. re: Joseph

                I'll second the vote for the masa at the tamal stand outside the NPP on El Cajon Blvd. I had a cheese and chile in corn husk. The masa was light and sweet, and almost white in color. By comparison, the last one I had at Ancira in Escondido was soggy and tired. But the NPP cart was by far the best tamale I've ever had. I'm really not an authority, but I have tried to ferret out distinctive tamales in San Diego, and for the most part I think they are very similar, to the point that I don't go out of my way for a tamale anymore. (World's Greatest Pizza is an exception, though I actually haven't been there for a while.)

                It's my impression that the lady with the cart has more varieties than are listed on the price board behind her. I'll have to try the others, particularly the banana wraps. More investigation needed, clearly.