It’s that time of year again, when I start to put in my orders from tamales. Not just any tamales, but the hard to come by regional varieties from Mexico, Central America, and South America.
It’s just not Christmas without tamales from Tamales Elena, and their special banana leaf Guerreran-style tamales, or the massive pig ear and pig foot tamales I get from a Guatemalan woman who sells them here in L.A. to help pay for her annual trip to visit relatives in town.
All of my picks from last year for the Tamales for the Holidays post are thankfully still in business, and as good as ever.
If you missed the big Taste of Tamale festival at Olvera Street this past weekend, there’s still a chance to put together your very own tamale festival from last year’s list and at a couple of places around town.
Chef Richard Sandoval is hosting his Third Annual Tamale Festival at La Sandia in Santa Monica. There, they'll showcase an impressive menu of tamales from all over Mexico. The menu runs until January 31 and includes rare items like the Durangan (Filipino) chicken tinga tamal stuffed into a chile relleno; an epazote-scented fish tamal wrapped in a banana leaf; and bright red dessert tamales like the ones found at markets in Mexico City.
Sandoval is celebrating the regional influences that have developed over time, via Mexico’s original masa-based celebration food, the tamal.
For something a little less formal, head down to MacArthur Park around Alvarado and 8th any morning for Guatemalan tamales de arroz, or rice tamales in banana leaves. Look for the ladies selling them from hand carts.
At night, hit up 8th and Irolo next to the Koreatown Jon’s Market for chicken and pork tamales in corn husk wrappers from shopping cart vendors. They are paired with scalding hot atole (a masa-based drink) ladled from an insulating cooler.
Grab ‘em by the dozen and give the gift of tamales this holiday season, whether fried, steamed, boiled, or wrapped in corn husks, or banana leaves—it’ll be one of the best presents you get to unwrap.
La Sandia, 395 Santa Monica Place, 305 N., Santa Monica, 310-393-3300
Irolo and 8th for the shopping cart vendors.
8th and Alvarado for Guatemalan tamales de arroz.