|Popular Mexican gastronomy revolves around three simple dishes: tacos, tortas and tamales. I already presented you the first two, now that I'm in Southern Mexico, where it's most popular, I'll tell you a bit about the tamales (singular is tamal). That traditional dish has been eaten in Mexico territory for more than 2 000 years, with very little variation compared to the original recipe.|
The are two major
variants of the tamales preparation, which I will call the Central
way and the Southern way. The Central way (used in the North as
well) cooks the tamales within corn leaves, while the Southern
(Oaxaca, Guerrero, Yucatán, Chiapas, Veracruz and Tabasco
states) way wraps them in banana leaves. The
difference is due due to the local culture in place. They slightly
differ in appearance since the ones cooked in corn leaves are usually
shaped like a corn cob (that's normal to adapt to the wrapping),
while the ones cooked in banana leaves are usually square because of
the folding of the thick leaves.
Tamal in corn leaves
But inside the leaves,
you'll find essentially the same thing: masa paste with a filling.
The masa is dried corn grains that has been cooked in limewater and
soaked overnight, in order to separate more easily all the components
(like the skin). It's then pressed into a paste. Once you reached a
coarse consistency you add lard and spices to get the masa for the
tamales. If you were doing masa for tortillas, you would be continue
grinding until a smooth consistency, without adding anything to the
paste. The masa for tamales yields a softer and lighter taste which
remains close to a paste texture even once cooked.
The masa paste is shaped
by hand to include a filling before being wrapped in the leaves (corn
or banana) and being boiled or steamed. The filling can be virtually
anything, sweet or salty. It's been documented there a few thousands
varieties of tamales. The meat tamales (usually with stewed chicken,
beef or pork) are often eaten as meals (many tamales per order). A
tamal usually weights around 100 or 150 grams. The vegetables and
fruits ones are also very popular. I had one with 'new corn'... it
was extremely sweet.
Tamal in banana leaves
Mexicans refer to the
trilogy of tacos, tortas and tamales as their vitamin T, since it's
the basis of their alimentation. All three dishes are usually found
in the street... where many people eat. Out of the three, tamales
are my least favorite, but that's a personal preference. I find them
too high in carbs and too low in proteins. Tacos are my #1 choice.
Popular Mexican food trilogy