Christmas tamales around the world ... The Twelve Tamales of Christmas
What type of tamales do you eat for Christmas? What country are they from?
In Guatemala, tamales negras are the Christmas specialty
“the tamal negro (black) is usually made only for special occasions and Christmas, of course. The black tamal takes its name from the chocolate-based sauce and comes with raising, dried plums and nuts. Yes, it is bit sweet, although the tamal negro is considered a main dish.”
I asked my Guatemalan family what type of tamales they would be making and they said, “Tamales rojo”.
I asked if the red tamales were the same as tamales colorado and the answer was no. It seems like these use various types of meat such as duck, pork and turkey. Like the black tamales they seem to have a sweet element, incorporating raisins. It seems everyone gets involved in this project, so it should be fun to be a part of and see what is involved.
So what are your special Christmas tamales? Do you make or buy them? When do you make them ... Chrestmas Eve or before?
When are the served ... Christmas Eve, breakfast for Christmas, Christmas dinner? This article from the San Francisco Chronicle says they are served throught the Christmas season especially during posadas, the nine days before Christmas
The above link mentions Tamales de Cambray which sound a lot like the tamales rojo
"Though the guajillo chile sauce provides some heat, the lively filling of shredded meat with tomatoes, currants, olives and ripe plantain brings the chiles into balance ..These tamales are traditionally made with three types of meat ... . In Mexico, cooks often poach pork shoulder or chicken in salted water with onion, garlic and herbs until tender, then shred the meat, explains Mackenzie; the resulting broth is also used in the tamales. In Oaxaca, as in other tropical areas of Mexico, banana leaves are often used as a wrapper."
What do you served with your tamales ... ponche, rompompe, hot chocolate, beer ... something else? The SF Chronicle has some suggested wine pairings.
Here's a funny blog with video about making Christmas tamales in Texas. He rants a bit at first about a Texas newspaper printing a recipe about tofu tamales, is a little politically incorrect in places and then gets down to the tamale making.
You have to admire the ecumenical spirit of this blogger who made vegetarian Jewish Christmas tamales ... rather than go for the traditional Chinese dinner
Here's an article (pdf format) about a restaurant that serves "The Twelve Tamales of Christmas"
I had my tamal negro tonight from a tamal lady who has a reputation of being the best in Antigua, GT.
The pork tamal with chocolate sauce, macadamia nut, prune and raisins was fabulous. Photos and more in this post
Antigua, GT: The red light district and some hot tamales
I make tamales most Christmases. I spent a few years practically getting raised by a Mexican family. They made tamales at Christmas and I have such fond memories that I make them. Anyway, they made regular pork and beef (stewed meat in red sauce). Small ones. I make larger ones and have more goodies in mine (like chile and onion slices) and sometimes I put a cilantro leaf and stem on the husk before battering it up with masa). The grandpa also made sweet tamales. But unlike the Guatamalan ones in the article they ate them for snacks or dessert. I think plum and raisin or strawberries. A thick compote with chunks. Maybe pineapple.
I do not sauce them up, but I make a chile sauce for my husband who likes them wet. We drink beer with them, but I remember drinking a really sweet punch and some sort of drink that was sort of like a very sweet cocoa served hot. I think it was called atole - or something very similar to that.
Maybe this is why I have been craving churros. It is a sign to make tamales.
re: Sal Vanilla
If the sweet punch was made at Christmas time, it was probably ponche.It is made with dried fruit. Just like mulling spices are sold in packages for hot mulled cider in the US, there are packages of fruit for ponche that are sold here.
Guatemala as the best atole ... or rather here it is spelled atol. There are so many kinds, but my favorite is leche y arroz. This is a lousy description, but it tastes like drinkin rice pudding. That doesn't sound tasty, but it truly is.
This post just made me wonder if I could make a calzone tamale: masa pressed around sauce, cheese, and some pepperoni slices.
*Sorry if you consider this irreverent. I don't mean it that way. I was just brainstorming. I'm the same person who came up with "Montana sushi": sushi featuring olive loaf. Oh yes I did.
tamales are either wonderful with lots of filling or awful with too much outter masa meal or whatever it is called.
the only time I've had them during the holidays was in school when someone I attended school with was fortunate to have family members that made them so they'd bring 'em in.
or at the various places I've worked at the occasional lady will come into the store front and mentionthat she has fresh tamales out side for purchase. I've never know a time when she had any left after coming into a place I worked, we all stormed her.
This is close to my recipe (without the tofu rant): http://www.sonofthesouth.net/tamales/... and he gives great visual instructions as well.
I make mine of pork - only, ever - and wouldn't dream of using corn oil in my masa. Lard, thank you. We have them once a year, and I won't apologize for making them the way I was told to make them.
As I was gathering all of the ingredients for my first ever attempt, an older woman looked over the contents of my cart, looked at me and said "don't cover them with a lid, use a folded towel." My guess is that letting some steam out helps with the masa texture.
My FIL likes to serve tamales with chili, but I prefer them unadorned.
It's in the mushroom category, and tata's description of sweet, musky, earthy is fair. It is a surprisingly mild flavor, and I can't think of an objectionable flavor component in it. Some folks, like Sneeze's description, simply don't like the appearance of mushy black food. (The nodules are actually a silvery-blue-gray, until you cut them up.) And yes, they can be prepared whole, as I did in a quesadilla. For those who can see past the color of squid ink pasta or perigord truffles, huitlacoche is fun in part because it is so unique.
In my parts, Christmas time is an explosion of tamales, northern Mexican style. Sometimes our neighbors give them to us. There are tamaleros sitting on the corner by the park. Sometimes older women come by to sell them at places of business or somebody's grandma is selling them by work of mouth. Pre-mixed masa and also masa harina goes on sale, and I have even heard radio ads for pre-made tamal filling. Certain local stores are known to have Christmas time tamales from special suppliers as well. There are ads for tamales everywhere. I have gotten two invites to go to local how-to demonstrations for them.
I wouldn't be opposed to tofu tamales. Food evolves and changes. For example, most places in my parts don't use pork lard in their tamales, and the pre-made masa dough at the grocery store doesn't contain pork lard. Health consciousness, I guess???
My family's favorite Mexican bakery has strawberry tamales (though actually this may be traditional, I have no idea). And people aren't so particular, really you can stuff them with whatever you want. I love chocolate tamales (gorgeous!).
My faves are cheese and chile strips (rajas), and any type with a very flavorful filling.
I lived abroad and far away from my beloved tamales for many years. Once I found a certain brand of beef tamales in a can at an expat store. I knew they would be gross, but thought I could possibly doctor them up and bought them anyway. They smelled like dog food, I just threw them out. So sad. Anyway, I have recently returned home and have been re-exploring tamales.
In the past few years, I have seen these Oaxacan tamaleros open up some trendy shops around town and also sell their banana leaf tamales at some farmer's markets. These are very popular. But I still prefer the perfume of corn husk in my tamales. It is what I am used to and it hits the spot more for me, personally. I appreciate the opportunity to try other types of tamales, though.
Yeah, cheese and rajas are my favorite and also a safe bet when trying out a new tamale vendor. I've run into the occasional funky chicken or pork tamale, but never cheese and peppers.
Strawberry and other fruit tamales are traditional. When I worked in Mexico City, they hotel I was staying at had a blow out Sunday buffet where locals loved to come after Sunday mass. They always had strawberry and sometimes pineapple tamales. Raisin are also popular. I've never been that impressed with the sweet tamales until I has this outstanding coconut pineapple tamale in SF. Really good.
As the article in the Chronicle mentions, Mexico City chefs at upscale joints are getting into creative tamales.
Gautemala has some of the most unheaalthy eating habits I know, but for some reason very few people use lard. There must have been some sort of public campaign against it. My family uses vegetable oil. I'm going to be curious to see if any lard goes into the Christmas tamales. One regional Guatemalan cookbook I have has all the recipes for tamales using lard. However, the newer cookbooks substitute margarine or oil for the lard.
Around here the most popular ones are Tex-Mex, of course, and at this time of year it's very important to get some hand-made ones, not the machine made ones that are much more widely available. Puerco followed by pollo are the most popular but there are also dessert tamales, which are harder to find.
I've had some awesome Central and South American tamales plus Puerto Rican pasteles, which are made with plantain rather than masa, I think. A Colombian one with a whole drumstick and portions of pork rib, bone-in, and vegetables, plus several Guatemalan - one called Tamale Centro Americano which had tender stewed pork, a raisin or two and a nut or two, topped with a milk chocolate-colored mole (?), but very little of it, and a Tamale Blanca, with chicken meat, made with white corn and topped with a bright red sauce plus numerous chuchitas, but never a Guatemalan Christmas tamale - I'll have to be on the lookout.
I just recently had my first hallacas, the Venezuelan holiday tamale with beef, pork and chicken plus green olives, capers and raisins. I went back the next day and bought several to freeze.
The twelve tamales of Christmas sounds awesome (and a very reasonable price) - too bad he doesn't do mail-order any more or I'd be on the phone.
The Pasteles I've had around the Carribean and Venezuela were made with pounded plaintains and wrapped in Banana leaves. There was a little Guyanese grocery in South Miami that took orders for them around Christmas time and they were so savory and spicy with beef,pork,and always with raisins. Your post reminded me of them.
Wow, impressive selection of tamales in your areaa.
The Tamale Centro Americano sounds like the tamale negro mentioned in the OP. You might take a look at the link with the photo. I'm going to be in Antigua next week and the first place I'm hitting is Los Abuelitas for the tamales negro. I'll let you know if they have meat inside. The Guatemalan cookbook I have with the recipe says there is pork in it. .
That's very interesting about the customs re: days of the week, the red light, etc. Around here, mostly I can get chuchitas but never have encountered a limitation on the day of the week a tamale is available. There is a neighborhood here with only 2 brick and mortar Guatemalan restaurants but about 8 or 10 Guatemalan mobile units in a 4 or 5 block area including a couple calling themselves tamalerias; I'm going to be on the look-out for those red lights next time I cruise through there.
Here's a link to an old review of mine on CH of the place with the Tamale Centro-Americano with a picture at the bottom. The place has changed hands and menu. The pictures on Antigua Daily photo are very similar but the ones here tend to have less sauce on top than those.
I didn't mention all the Salvadoran tamales but I don't know if there are any Christmas special and how could I forget Oaxacan? For that matter, I forgot the place just a few blocks from me that serves a variety of Mexico City style tamales, the very large and very dense variety that practically need a knife to cut. I don't care for that style and haven't been in a couple of years but I do know they do a strawberry one and I think a pineapple one.
The most alluring tamale I ever saw I found online, a blackberry tamale from Morelia.
I think the redl light thing is specific to the city of Antigua. The areas where I frequent in GT, you can get tamales everyday somewhere or another, but Saturday seems to be the day for tamales and when most people eat them. They make a nice breakfast the next morning also. In Escuintla, people just know who makes tamales and Saturdays, so no red lights.
Tamales de puerco <pork tamales> from Cuba. Delicious, but the process of grinding the corn then straining them and wrapping the masa in the corn husks is tedious and a pain it could take hours with one person doing it. So we buy the frozen tamales from Goya and serve them at Christmas as a side along with yuca and boniato.
Our neighbor makes ups Puerto Rican pasteles for Christmas, which is their version of a tamale. Excellent as well.
Very timely. I have been debating whether I wanted to make Mexican tamales with duck mole and rajas or traditional Filipino tamales for my upcoming Christmas party. Since it is near impossible to find Filipino tamales around these parts, I decided they'd be the better choice, particularly since there are many people who would happy to receive them as a gift.
Chow has a recipe for Filipino tamales. Is this similar to what you are mking?
2 cups [480 mL] raw peanuts, in shell
3½ cups [840 mL] uncooked rice
7 cups [1.7 L] coconut milk
1 cup [240 mL] light brown sugar
2 teaspoons [10 mL] salt
1 teaspoon [5 mL] white pepper
1 cup [240 mL] unsalted roasted peanuts, coarsely crushed
¼ cup [60 mL] annatto water (see page 182)2 garlic cloves, whole
1 scallion, tied in a knot
1 pound [450 g] pork loin
2 boneless and skinless chicken breast halves
1 pound [450 g] shrimp, shelled and deveined
8 ounces [225 g] cooked ham, cut into strips, ½ inch [1 cm] wide and ¼ inch [6 mm] thick
3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
16 pieces of aluminum foil, 10 × 12 inches [25 × 30 cm], or banana leaves, blanched in hot water
Sriracha sauce, to garnish
Are they called tamales or is there a specific name for them?
In the SF Bay Area there's a large Filipino population, but I dont recall the tamales.
Are they only made for Christmas or at other times?
That recipe for tamales is pretty similar. I am making two rice flour doughs: one using toasted rice, the other plain. Between those two layers, there will be chunks of chicken and pork, chopped shrimp, chorizo and salted duck eggs. I may also try a red curry duck filling which, though untraditional, seems like it would go well with the rice dough.
Filipino tamales are fiesta fare, not strictly for Christmas, though they are becoming a rarer treat. I've never seen them commercially available stateside.