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south bronx tamale gold

bigjeff Sep 30, 2009 07:30 AM

I've written about these tamales many times on this board but after a recent sampling, I think they deserve their own thread. The tamales offered by the mother and son team of Tamales Ebenezer, located on East 138th Street between 3rd Avenue and Willis in the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx (and down the block from the 138th St-3rd Avenue station of the 6 train) are the bomb. I buy tamales practically whenever I see them in a cart because for a minimum investment, you're sure to get something good but these are gold. Steamed in corn husks (no aluminum foil) with a a choice of rojo (spicy with pork), verde (spicier with chicken), cheese (spicy), and sweet (one kind has raisins, the other has pineapple) for $1.25 each of generously packed tamales, streaked through with grease and flavor and often served two inside a bun (are people crazy??? apparently, because I saw a group of 5 guys get that one morning) and of course, my favorite offering of theirs, tamales oaxaqueno, $2 beauties wrapped in banana (plaintain?) leaves, big monsters, wetter than the regular ones, about 8" x 4" with verde as well as a molé one which is amazing. All have generous fillings, no dry spots in the masa like some places, and just amazing. They also can do catering and special orders but are consistently there everyday, sometimes getting there as early as 6:30am but be aware that they usually close up shop by the afternoon, when all their stuff runs out.

but if you are in the area, check 'em out! or, make that special trip if you want to pick up some tamales for a party or something.

Tamales Ebenezer
353 East 138th Street (between Willis and 3rd Ave, in front of La Merced Mexiana)


  1. CalJack Sep 30, 2009 09:28 AM

    Thank you for giving these folks a thread of their own! A sampling of tasty tamales (raja and verde) under the 61st St train trestle last weekend awoke my inner tamale fiend from his summer slumber. I can't wait to try the tamales oaxaqueno you've mentioned here - at $2, they sound like a steal!

    Can anyone clarify whether there's any distinction between raja and rojo/roja when it comes to Oaxacan tamale varieties? My experience has always been that raja indicated a relatively mild poblano chile-based sauce, with or without meat. Would tamales rojos be pretty similar, or would rojo just signal a red filling of some kind?

    7 Replies
    1. re: CalJack
      bigjeff Sep 30, 2009 12:28 PM

      I remember them saying that the cheese one was raja, so it was relatively "vegetarian" minus all the manteca hahahahaha! but, it was pretty spicy, lotta red peppers up in there. so . . . it may indeed be different, the raja and the rojo. really nice people, the mom don't speak any english but the son does, very very nice people.

      1. re: bigjeff
        missmasala Oct 9, 2009 11:23 AM

        I always thought "raja" referred to the peppers. If i order a raja tamale, i expect it to have cheese and peppers. but this could be totally based on misinformation.

        i rarely get up to the bronx, but these tamales sound awesome. it might be time for a bronx visit.

        1. re: missmasala
          bigjeff Oct 9, 2009 12:09 PM

          maybe this is a clue?

          1. re: missmasala
            CalJack Oct 9, 2009 12:40 PM

            Yeah, my hunch is that it's any tamale where peppers of some kind are the primary ingredient in the filling. Perhaps different regional recipes use different types of peppers? I know tamales are hardly exclusive to Oaxaca.

        2. re: CalJack
          bigjeff Oct 8, 2009 01:34 PM

          hi caljack; picked up 2 dozen tamales this morning for an office party and indeed, what they offer with regular tamales is: sweet (raisin but they can also make pineapple); pork with red sauce (rojo), chicken with green sauce (verde) and cheese with peppers and onions (rajas). the rajas is really nice, spicier than it seems, and the verde is spicier than the rojo but the rojo looks a lot more exciting with beautiful red grease permeated throughout the masa.

          haven't got a handle on the types of oaxaqueno they have but i know they have at least a verde of that as well as a mole (which is really really nice).

          1. re: bigjeff
            CalJack Oct 8, 2009 03:08 PM

            Thanks for the reminder - I know what you mean when it comes to the visual appeal of that red grease that often soaks through the masa. Any chance that the Tamales Ebenezer team would be around on a Saturday morning? I have a gathering up in East Harlem this weekend that could use a hot tamale injection.

            1. re: CalJack
              bigjeff Oct 8, 2009 10:31 PM

              dude, they should be there by 9:30 for sure but he said they get there as early as 6:30am to set up; your people are going to be really happy; i picked up about 18 this morning at 8am and they stayed pretty warm up until i served them at around 6:00pm; get the mix of all 3 plus a couple of the other style; amazing; would love to hear your thoughts.

        3. bigjeff Oct 9, 2009 01:20 PM

          an additional report on the sweet ones; i had the raisin one and it was tinted an alarming magenta color but . . . really quite good. sweet, lardy of course, cinnamon-y and almost peppermint-y, they grew on me. total comfort food as a dessert, reminding me of other kinds of puddings or milk-based desserts. no real similarities to any other dessert i've ever had although it could be likened to a steamed cornbread perhaps? anyway, try it; you just might like it!

          2 Replies
          1. re: bigjeff
            chowaholic Oct 22, 2009 06:45 AM

            do you know if they're there on weekdays for lunch...oh, say...today? I've got a hankerin.

            1. re: chowaholic
              bigjeff Oct 22, 2009 07:40 AM

              they should be there through lunch, I doubt they sell out by later than 1 or 2pm but . . . I'd go on the early side! they are there everyday; enjoy and I'd love to hear your thoughts. are you in the area often? there are a few active s. bronx threads right now, including this one looking for lunch recs in the area (I couldn't come up with too many):


          2. theeatenpath May 5, 2010 08:23 PM

            A truly amazing find - I've been hitting up this stand for just a few weeks, and I can't believe how completely it blows the competition out of the water. I actually was under the impression that the verde was pork and the rojo chicken (one time I was told that only pork was left, and I walked away with a bag full of verdes). This could just be one of those embarrassing moments in which I find out I can't tell what my favorite meat tastes like once it's stewed :P

            If anyone reading this doubts that they're worth getting up at 6:30 in the morning for, I'm attaching some photos from my blog writeup here to put some weight behind those words.

            I can't wait to try the cheese, peppers and fruit!

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