Tamale season officially begins in Los Angeles on Thanksgiving. It’s a time when Latin-American families all over the U.S. commence production of enough tamales for the 54 million Latinos (most Latin-American cultures have their own regional tamales) living in America to enjoy with their turkey and stuffing.
But since the U.S Customs and Border Protection agency might not let your tia (aunt) or abuelita’s (grandmother) tamales into the country, there are plenty of warming comfort dishes at our many Latin-American restaurants to raise your spirits and keep you dry when El Niño comes pouring down. Here are five tempting dishes, perfect for the wild winter season that’s in store for L.A. residents.
There are plenty of hearty dishes in the unofficial Little Belize section of South Central. One of the heartiest is split pea soup slow cooked with pigtails at Joan and Sisters, where it’s always relaxed as most of the Belizean community gets their food to go. It’s a simple and tasty comfort plate served over rice available during the week and a popular comfort food, perfect for one of those stormy Mondays.
Joan and Sisters, 3709 S. Western Ave., 323-735-8952
The menu at Chilenazo, a Chilean sandwich and empanada shop, serves 100% comfort food, but their pastel de choclo, a savory corn pie filled with a creamy blend of beef, chicken, hard-boiled eggs, raisins, and olives is a winter wonderland of flavors.
Chilenazo, 7238 Canoga Ave, Canoga Park 818-887-0269
It’s time for you, too, to begin to normalize relations with our new friends in Cuba. And you can start with a hot bowl of potaje at L.A.’s very own Cuban paladar, La Caridad. Every Wednesday, a potaje de garbanzos, or thick, garbanzo stew loaded with spices and flavored by pork bones, is on the daily specials menu with some dinner rolls for dipping.
La Caridad, 2619 W Sunset Bl., Silver Lake (Btwn N Benton Way & N Coronado St), 213-484-0099
There’s nothing like a northern Mexican, cowboy-style soup like the spicy lentils at Guiños Homemade Gorditas and Soups. It’s fortified with tomatoes, bacon, and vegetables prepared the Coahuila way at the only genuine northern Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles.
Guiños Homemade Gorditas and Soups, 2667 E Florence Ave. Ste. B, Huntington Park, 323-535-9687
One of my neighborhood standbys, Natalie Peruvian Seafood, does a very nice parihuela, a Peruvian mixed seafood soup with a base of tomatoes and Peruvian peppers that enhance the tangy notes in the soup. It comes full of mussels, octopus, crab legs, fish, and shrimp that warm your soul in a tiny dining room that’ll make you feel like a guest in Natalie’s home.
Natalie Peruvian Seafood, 5759 Hollywood Bl., Hollywood, 323-463-8340