Essential T: Tamales Vallunos at Colombian Delicatessen

It all boils down to these oversized tamales at Hawthorne’s Colombian Deli

The very best Mexican foods start with the letter T—tacos, tortas, tlayudas. Here we showcase the tastiest “T” bites from the streets of L.A.

Everyday is a tamal tour in Los Angeles: You can find regional tamales from Mexico, almost every country in Central America, the Caribbean, and South America sold in restaurants, delis, and street stands. Most locals are more familiar with the steamed tamales from different parts of Mexico that are wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves and filled with a spoonful of a guisado, or stew. Colombian cuisine is much lesser known in L.A., so you might have not had the chance to taste their delicious and larger boiled tamales, especially from Colombia’s Valle del Cauca Department on the country’s Western coast. 

There are a few Colombian restaurants in Los Angeles which showcase the regional Colombian cooking of Valle del Cauca, known for it’s vibrant capitol city of Santiago de Cali, the beautiful caleñas (women from Cali), and tamales vallunos (tamales from the Valle del Cauca). But one place serving this unique style of tamal is Colombian Delicatessen in Hawthorne, which carries ingredients and food products to serve the Colombian community, as well as a small menu of Colombian dishes. 

On Saturdays, the Colombian Delicatessen makes a limited number of tamales vallunos that are ready around mid-day. They are about the size of a Nerf football, and stuffed with enough goodness to serve as your entire lunch. The corn masa tamal valluno is filled with pork, bone-in chicken, peas, carrots, and potatoes cooked in a fragrant Colombian sofrito, or seasoning sauce, before being packed into the masa, wrapped in banana leaves and tightly bound before boiling. The result is a moist, savory tamal that’s literally full of surprises.

Colombian Delicatessen, 14159 Hawthorne Bl., Hawthorne, 310-970-1092