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Tamales?

Once upon a time, (and by that, I mean about fifteen years ago), we used to have a Hispanic lady who would come by our office every Tuesday with homemade tamales. She had pork, chicken and bean/vegetarian, (imagine me rolling my eyes here, please), and I think she sold them for $3/dozen. They came wrapped in foil and still warm from the steamer.

These were really good tamales. I would usually eat three or four immediately with a drop or two of the homemade hot sauce that they tied up in the corner of a baggie like some illicit contraband.

Then one Tuesday she shows up and I buy my usual dozen. For whatever reason, I didn't have any immediately, but broke 'em out when I got home that evening.

Of the dozen tamales, ten were all masa and two had a slight dribble of refried beans inside of them.

Needless to say, I never saw her again.

And so, in my long-winded way, To The Point:

Does anyone know where I can obtain real, homemade style pork tamales? I want them fresh from the steamer and if perfect, will leave a red rivulet of grease running down my forearm.

For my part, the best I've had lately, (and it's been a year or so), is Luna's on Westpark at Alief Clodine west of Highway 6. But some years ago they started healthifying them up and i just don't get the same shaving-hours-off-of-my-life-with-every-bite satisfaction that I used to get from the cheating door-to-door lady's offerings.

So how about it, Chowhounds? What I really, really want is the name and number of your abuelita. Assuming you can't, (or won't!) do that, I'll take any commercially produced version you are prepared to toss at me with my promise to praise (or curse!) your suggestion in this very forum.

TIA

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  1. I like Dona Tere tamales. Run a search and you'll see more good feedback about them, and also Alamo.

    Here's a good thread:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/673313

    1. I asked this question along about this time last year. We always have tamales for Christmas, and I was in search of some good ones.

      I got some great feedback and wound up going to Gerardo's. The whole family was very, very pleased. I went back and got more, which we froze by the dozen. Even months later, reheated in the microwave, they remained wonderful. I heartily recommend them.

      Here's the thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/673313

      ETA - Oh, now I see that air linked to the same thread!

      Well, there you go...two links in case one doesn't work.

      1. Thanks to both of you guys for the link. Very helpful and I should have known it would have come up before. (Doh!)

        I like Dona Tere but they are huge and masa heavy. The last time I was there I got un puerco verde y un puerco roja. Very good but not very heart-stoppingly rich and death-defyingly greasy. THAT'S what I'm talking about. I buy Alamo at the grocery frequently and they'll do in a pinch, but the handmade ones might be more what I'm looking for.

        How about Gerardos? Suicide in a husk?

        If so, I'm on my way!

        11 Replies
        1. re: DoobieWah

          Well, I remember years ago when I first started eating tamales, I went to a tamalada hosted by a friend of mine. Her abuelita told me that the way you can tell if a tamal is really "good" (and by that she meant bastante greasy), is to hold it up by the tail. A "good" tamal, she said, will slip out from the husk easily, landing kerplop on your plate.

          The ones from Gerardo did. And, like I said in the other thread, we finished off our Christmas tamales in pretty good haste, and then I went back and got another dozen dozen, which we froze.

          Obviously don't know what your verdict will be but when it comes to tamales, for me and my house, we'll serve Gerardo's.

          1. re: DoobieWah

            Someone pointed this out on the last thread, but I just wanted to reiterate that there is huge difference between the machine made and the hand made tamales at Alamo on navigation. The machine made ones are really nothing to speak about, but the hand made ones are good.

            If you are willing to hang around bars in Montrose (alabama ice house, poison girl, etc) you can always run into the Tamale Guy, a true Houston hero. His tamales have saved me many a night, and his hot sauce is awesome. Although, I've only ever had them while drinking, which tends to make everything seem awesome.

            1. re: benjym

              So here's the Alamo website:

              http://www.alamotamale.com/

              and this is on their "About Alamo" page under "Factory Facts":

              "Although we have modernized the way we make tamales since our start in 1960, we still rely on family recipes and wrap each and every one of our tamales by hand."

              Am I missing something?

              BTW, my buddy also swears by Alamo but he said you have to pick up the hand-rolled ones at their factory on Jensen. He also added that you have to get there early or leave empty.

              Hmmmm.

              It's not too far from Gerardos, so maybe a side by side taste test is in order for this weekend.

              Sounds like a plan!

              1. re: DoobieWah

                You say when and where, and I'll meet you there.

                Maybe we can line up one or two more places to try.

                A Houston CH Tamal Throwdown!

                (Are you on the Yahoo Houston CH group?)

                1. re: Jaymes

                  I'm in if you're serious, but it will have to be early. (My Longhorns will need my undivided attention by 2:30pm.)

                  I'm usually kicking the sun out of bed in the morning, (even Saturday), so just say when and where.

                  1. re: DoobieWah

                    Okay, say 11am at Gerardo's this Sat? I'm a gringa granny. I'll probably be easy to spot.

                    And you can pick up an extra dozen or so tamales to take back with you to give you strength to root on those 'horns.

                    1. re: Jaymes

                      I'm there. I'm a prematurely gray gringo with a few extra tamales around the middle.

                      (I'll be wearing the Longhorn T-shirt.)

                      See ya', and anyone else who wants to join, there.

                      1. re: Jaymes

                        I've got some stops to make so I'm outta here, but I'll cya' there at 11.

                        1. re: DoobieWah

                          Had a family mini-emergency. Got here late. Sorry. Don't see me no Doobiewah. Hope you liked it!

                          1. re: Jaymes

                            Sorry I missed you. We left about 11:25. I had already stopped at Dona Tere and Alamo before hitting Gerardo's. I had looked forward to having a leisurely tamal tasting. Unfortunately, as you know, the parking lot was pretty busy, but we did wolf down one (or two!) of each.

                            As I noted above, Dona Tere's are a little too masa heavy for me. I got two red pork and two green chicken. $1.29/each, and would never hesitate to buy a couple if I was passing by. These were the only chicken I got; for me, a tamal is pork.

                            The line at Alamo was not bad and at $9.50 a dozen for the hand made, (vs. $5/dz for the machine rolled which is exactly how the sign described them despite the website comment I noted above), they were the most expensive. But ultimately proved my favorite. They are exactly what I was looking for, light masa, great flavor, just greasy enough to give me flashbacks of the good old days, (...you know, back when we didn't have to worry about such things...).

                            Gerardo's are also good, and built exactly the same, but I liked the spices better in Alamo's. Personal preference<shrug>. Gerardo's are $8/dz, and like Alamo, there was a decent line, with most customers buying other things like barbacoa, carnitas, etc.

                            Bottom line - I still have almost two dozen tamales in my styrofoam chest staying warm for the game. (And a new bottle of Jag in the freezer in case the game... well you know.).

                            Sorry I missed you Jaymes. We'll do it again soon and compare notes.

                            1. re: DoobieWah

                              One last comment regarding The Great Tamale Crawl of 2010,

                              At Alamo, they just throw in little .5 oz containers of their presumably homemade hot sauce and it's very good. They gave me maybe ten little dealies of it for my 2doz tamales.

                              At Gerardo's however, the have 2 oz c ups of various sauces for sale at $0.50/per.

                              They may have had four or five different varieties and I picked up three, a green, a red and a neon orange. (And remember that Gerardo's tamales are $1.50/dozen cheaper so in the end it washed...)

                              The red and green are very good and highly recommended.

                              Let's talk Orange. Holy cow is that stuff good! As you might surmise it is neon orange because it's made with orange habaneros and it is darned hot, but it is just addictingly delicious. I will make the drive over there just for that neon orange sauce once in a while, and will also grab a tamal or two and maybe some barbacoa, carnitas, etc., whilst there.

                              Anyway, the upshot is that if you go to Gerardo's, you have to try some of that orange stuff. It's absolutely awesome.

                              (I put it on my tuna fish sandwich last night.)

            2. I like the chicken tamales at Teloloapn market on Hammerly. They also have pork, but my wife rarely lets me eat any of them, being of Mexican descent she knows how they're made and are only allowed as a special treat. There are several scattered around town, but I've only been to the one on Hammerly.

              http://search.yahoo.com/search;_ylt=A...

              1 Reply
              1. re: James Cristinian

                Crap! I was three blocks from there! DOH!

              2. Growing up in Louisiana and often eating tamales made by an Italian man, I wasn't even sure what I was being served the first time I ate tamales in Houston. My mouth is watering thinking about Mancuso's crawfish tamales. Mr. Mancuso is long gone though. My second favorite tamale ever is at Los Toritos which is a small store selling tamales of several flavors, chili which is delicious, and a few other things. There is one table in the store I think, it's 99% take out. I like his spicy brisket tamales the best but they are not near spicy enough so hot sauce is needed. I tried the cheese and did not like the strong milky flavor of the cheese. The tamales are not greasy but the flavor is real good. I can't tolerate greasy tamales after buying some from a co-workers aunt once that were swimming in grease and one gave me a horrible tummy ache.

                The tamales I grew up eating were terribly moist but not greasy so eating a drier type tamale took me awhile. But I love Los Toritos' tamales and keep some in the freezer. That reminds me that I'm out of their chili and need to swing by there and pick some up.

                It might be too far for you to drive but if you're over in the area, you should try a half dozen. It's right across the street from my gym so I'm there 5-6 days a week and can restock my supply easily :-)

                Los Toritos (281) 991-5552
                3926 Country Rd, #B, Pasadena, TX 77505

                3 Replies
                1. re: texasredtop

                  At your gym 5-6 days a week?

                  I very much admire your fortitude, discipline and persistence. That probably would help rid me of the evidence of my fondness for tamales.

                  I think I'll check to see if there's a gym across the street from Gerardo's.

                  1. re: Jaymes

                    lol Jaymes - at my age I MUST work out frequently. There is just too much good food out there that I need to live long enough to try. I also usually work out twice a day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday - an hour in the morning and an hour in the early evening. Sometimes Saturdays for 2 hours. I'm retired, what else do I have to do with my time? We travel a lot too so I miss 2 and 3 weeks at a time. Just came home from a 2 week trip to Alberta and it was rough working out today. I go to 24-Hr and they have some good classes. If I didn't go, I'd have to eat rice cakes and tofu so I do have incentive.

                    All the talk about tamales yesterday has me craving them today. I'm going to check out Gerardo's and some of the other places mentioned here. I'd love to find something close to what I had growing up in Louisiana. I really miss the crawfish tamales. :-(

                    1. re: texasredtop

                      Well, we sound like we're about the same age, but I'm bettin' you're skinnier.

                      Let us know about those tamales!

                      I think I'm definitely going to get some on Sat. And try Alamo and DonaTere, too.