the Berkeley Bowl tamale lady
I've seen her (if it is the same woman) outside Monterey Market too. Husband and I were going to get morning buns from the bakery... but he wanted a tamale (chicken) instead. we had to go back for another! Really nice, really cheap. I mean, I'm sure there are better out there, but she's *right there*...
Well, she is loud isn't she? Since I was at the Bowl and I seem to be in the tamal zone lately, I bought a pork tamal The are a good street tamal. As mentioned the masa is moist, the pork in a medium spicy red sauce is tasty. Not a bad inexpensive way to revive from ... or prepare for ... the battle of the Bowl.
That being said ... I finished this tamal with a tamal I bought earlier from Unicos de Cuernavaca. It was a clear illustration of the difference between a good tamal and a great tamal.
The tamal lady's was carelessly put into the corn husk. There was even aluminum foil to hold it together. The masa was softer ... not just moister ... and less flavorful. While I had beef for the Unicos de Cuernavaca, it was more flavorful as was the pork I had a few days earlier.
Still, the tamal lady's $1 tamales are one of the better street versions I've tried and certainly worth the price. Better than a McDonald's value menu item.
I've gotten tamales from the woman across from Monterey Market. I think it's the same woman, she sells out of her truck. I've gotten both chicken and pork, very yummy, moist, good flavor. Was looking for her the other day. I think she said she's at the MM area on Thursdays and Saturdays.
Regarding if you should buy out of a truck or not, with or without certificates. I work in public health and love good street food. I travel internationally for work (India and Turkey) and will often go out to find a good street vendor to try the local fare. There is a risk to eating out, both on the street and in a restaurants, locally and internationally. I've gotten more sick from eating in local (Berkeley) restaurants than I have from street vendors. Health inspection certificates are important, but not the end all and be all of safety. Use common sense, I wouldn't chomp on raw lettuce on the streets of Mumbai, but these tamales are cooked thoroughly so most icky germs are killed off. And I think that most street vendors that have "regular" hours and locations count on repeat business so are careful not to "poison" their customers.
Buy a tamales for $1, use your eyes and nose, try it on the spot (I think she has napkins), if you like it buy more.
Hmm...humbly suggest you avoid anyone selling anything out of the trunk of a car, and this includes foodstuff and "racy" videos, unless they can show you a current, valid, City of Berkeley Health Inspection Certificate.
said food vendor should also be able to show you a certificate of insurance liability (OK, I forget if the legal min is $500,00 or $250,000).