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Berkeley: Casa Latina - nice nacatamales - tamal-rific

rworange Sep 29, 2011 12:39 AM

Nacatamales are the Nicaraguan tamal


This had the wonderful moist masa of Central America that was absolutely perfect. Not dry like Mexican, but not overly moist or soupy like some.

These are the large tamales, about the size of a dinner plate. A nice touch about the paper plate at Casa Latina was it had a pretty flower pattern.

There were generous pieces of pork in mildly spice sauce, a green olive, sliced potatoes, slices of green pepper, a chile, a little rice, a raisin, and mint leaves.

The first time I had rice in a tamal was in Costa Rica. There is not a lot of rice, maybe a teaspoon of it.

The plantain wrapped nacatamal is wrapped in wax paper.

Casa Latino makes a healtier version of Latino food using olive oil instead of lard and some organic ingredients.

I've never had a nacatamal before. However, having returned from a year in Guatemala, a country of outstanding tamales, this is up there with the best I had in that country.

My regret from my brief stay in Nicaragua was not being able to track down a nacatamal. It was either the wrong day or wrong time.

Has there been an ownership change at the Casa Latina restaurants. I tried to ask, but didn't get a clear answer. My Guatemalan accent must have confused them (sarcasm). However, they said the owner is Nicaraguan. I think that is a change. Montero's has a name change and different menu as well.

Berkeley seems to be allowing sign boards for businesses in the median strip of streets. This is distracting and unsafe, IMO. However, that's how I saw the nacatamal sign.

It was a little over $5, very filling and given the quality ingredients, well worth the price. Pick up a white roll so you can mop up the masa from the plantain leaf.

Casa Latina
1805 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA

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  1. Robert Lauriston RE: rworange Sep 29, 2011 11:00 AM

    How minty was the nacatamal?

    Berkeley doesn't allow signboards except on private property, but they're lax about enforcement in most areas.

    1. arktos RE: rworange Sep 29, 2011 11:30 AM

      I tried the Nicaraguan tamales and wasn't that impressed. Just seemed too potatoey and just not enough of the other ingredients which were rather bland.

      @Robert Lauriston The mint wasn't even noticable.

      1 Reply
      1. re: arktos
        rworange RE: arktos Sep 29, 2011 09:43 PM

        Who has good nacatamales so I can compare?

        Mine was nothing like what you describe there were about eight large mint leaves, only tw slices of potatoes, the chicken with a spicy marinade, the chile adding heat. Mine was anything but bland, rather a carnival of many flavors. Even the masa was good.

        I've been debating whether to buy some for my GUatemalan family. Gautemalans are not, in general, fans of picante (spicy) food. While this wasn't too spicy for me, there was enough heat there that they might object.

      2. Dave MP RE: rworange Nov 18, 2013 10:06 AM

        Bumping this discussion because I went to Casa Latina yesterday, since I was in the area and needed a snack.

        The ingredients for the nacatamales are listed on a sign as: corn meal, rice, potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, olives, capers, pork, mint leaves, pruntes, lard, onions, chili pepper, bacon, and apple cider vinegar.

        My nacatamal was $5, and it was really really good. It wasn't too minty (though I did see mint leaves), and it was a bit spicy (but made more spicy by adding some hot sauce). Texture-wise, it was much like rworange describes—not too soft, but quite far from being dry. There were several small pieces of potato, but it wasn't overwhelmingly potato-ey. The sweetness of the prune and the savory pork worked well together. Definitely worth a try if you're in the hood.

        I'd also be curious to hear where I might find other good versions of this in SF, since I'm not often in that part of Berkeley.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Dave MP
          Robert Lauriston RE: Dave MP Nov 18, 2013 10:12 AM


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