Mexico's 10 most famous tamales

To talk about tamales is to talk about a whole ancestral tradition that is still in force. With the passing of time, it has become stronger thanks to the cultural and festive diversity that exists in Mexico.

Tamales in the making. Photo by Quiony Navarro from Pexels
Tamales in the making. Photo by Quiony Navarro from Pexels

Its origin dates back to pre-Hispanic times, its main base is corn, no matter what type it is, here what varies is the filling and the leaves with which they are wrapped: banana, corn and maguey, among others.

It is not known exactly how many varieties of tamales exist in the country. There is talk that there are more than 500 different ones throughout Mexico, although the possibilities are endless; for example, Oaxacan chef Celia Florian, owner of Las Quince Letras in Oaxaca, mentioned that there are at least 50 varieties in her state.

Corundas, Michoacán

There's nothing more beautiful than these little triangular tamales. The word corunda comes from the Purepecha word "kúrhaunda" which means tamale. In pre-Columbian times they were commonly known as palace rolls since, according to history, they were a dish served in important ceremonies of Purepecha princes, accompanied by meat and sauces. With the passage of time, this recipe has been modified. Today they are bathed in green or red sauce with pieces of grilled cheese and cream. They are wrapped in leaves from the corn plant. A Michoacan must-have, whether made of butter or ash, its flavour and preparation is unique.

Vaporcitos, Yucatan

The dough is thin and the filling can be chicken, pork, turkey or pork. They are wrapped in banana leaves and steamed, hence the name vaporcitos. They are also called torteados because of the way the dough is spread before they are filled. It is recommended to accompany them with habanero sauce, a typical chile of the region. In this state, you can also try the maculan tamales wrapped in holly leaf, the chaya tamales, the colados and the mucbi chicken, a traditional Mayan dish.

Oaxaqueños, Oaxaca

It is common to generalize as an Oaxacan tamale to anyone wrapped in banana leaf regardless of the filling, but what differentiates the traditional Oaxacan recipe from all those made in the rest of the country is the unique mole of the region. It is usually prepared with a thin layer of corn dough, and is filled with pork or shredded chicken. It is bathed with mole negro and is usually accompanied by chocolate with water.

De Ollita, State of Mexico

In the municipality of Ocoyoacac, tamales are made that, because of their name, refer to an ollita, also called de hoyito, de cazuelita, chuchulucos or de tuza; this last name was given in pre-Hispanic times, due to the proximity of the municipality to the marshes of the Lerma River where tuzas abounded, whose meat was used to fill them. They continue to be a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation. As they are hollow, they are filled with abundant green or red sauce and a touch of beef or pork.

Zacahuil, Huasteca Veracruz

Its name comes from the Nahuatl word zacahuilli, which in Spanish means "with a taste of grass". It is a tamale so large that one piece can hold up to 10 people. The dough is made of shredded corn and lard. The filling can be pork, chicken or turkey, plus salsa and spices. It is wrapped in banana leaves and baked in a wood-fired oven. It is common to find it in the markets, the cooks sell it in individual portions to take away and share at home. It is very common to eat it on Sundays, on square days and at weddings.

Chipilin, Chiapas

Although there are many variations of this tamale in the southeastern states of the country, the main base for preparing it, as its name implies, is the chipilín, a kind of quelite that gives it its characteristic flavour. It is made with masa colada mixed with chipilín leaves, broth, and lard. It is given a rectangular shape and wrapped in banana leaves. It is accompanied by tomato sauce and fresh cheese.

De muerto, Querétaro

It is named for two reasons: the first is because it is made with blue corn dough, a colour that is related to mourning; the second is because it is a dish that is offered to the faithful departed on the Day of the Dead. The bluish dough is seasoned with salt and piloncillo. They are usually small and are filled with a cheese and chile ancho paste.

Barbones, Sinaloa

They originated in the coastal town of Escuinapa, in the south of the state, and for decades have been the livelihood of many in the municipality. As their name implies, they are stuffed with shrimp and are called barbones because they leave their heads along with their beards outside. The shrimp have their skin removed and are seasoned with salt, pepper and cumin. They are wrapped with the typical corn leaf.

Dulce, Mexico City

The dough contains grated pestle or sugar; raisins are added to it and it is commonly pink in colour. In ancient times this shade was obtained from the cochineal.

Nejo, Guerrero

Corn dough cooked with ash is used and it is filled with petals of suchipal flower. The tradition is to eat it during the Easter and Day of the Dead festivities.

THE TAMALE AND ITS ORIGINS

The tamale (from the Nahuatl word tamalli, meaning wrapped) is a generic name given to several American dishes of indigenous origin generally prepared with cooked corn dough wrapped in corn leaves or from the same plant, banana, bijao, maguey, avocado or even aluminum or plastic foil. They may or may not have a filling, which may contain meat, vegetables, chili, fruits, sauce, etc. They can also be sweet or salty flavored.

Origin

The origin of the tamale has been disputed by several countries in the Americas, however, not enough evidence has been obtained to attribute it to any particular culture or country. Various varieties of tamales have been developed in almost all countries of the American continent, especially in Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, the countries of Central America, and other countries of the Americas where corn is predominant in the diet.

It should be noted that the origin of corn was probably in the central region of Mexico, from where it spread to the rest of the Americas. There is evidence that the predominant cultures in Mexico that brought corn to other cultures and regions also brought with them dishes and ways of cooking it, being the tamale a simple method of cooking corn.

It is possible to think that the tamale was invented in the region where corn originated, that is, Mexico, and from there it was taken to other cultures and regions. However, the cultural exchange could also have brought the tamale from another region to Mexico.

Although Mexico has the greatest variety of tamales than any other country or region, this is not an indication of the age of the tamale, as Mexico also has the greatest cultural diversity and each culture developed its own variant of corn.

Tamales are described in Mexico by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún in Historia General de las cosas de Nueva España a principios del siglo XVI.

They also ate tamales in many ways; some of them are white and pella-like, made not quite round or square...Other tamales they ate are red...

Archaeological evidence shows the tamale as part of the daily life of some cultures in Mexico in pre-Hispanic times, as well as being used in religious rituals, offerings and tombs. However, this evidence is very recent, for example, from the classic Mayan period.

In Mexico

No country has as much diversity of tamales as Mexico. Each region and state has certain types of tamales, so many that the variety is estimated at between 500 and 5,000 throughout the country.

Fray Bernardino de Sahagún tells of a certain superstition among the indigenous people:

Another aberration they had when they cooked tamales in the pot. Some stick to the pot, like the meat when it is cooked, and it sticks to the pot. They said that the one who ate that tamale stuck, if he was a man, would never shoot arrows well in the war, and his wife would never give birth well. And if it was a woman, she would never give birth well, and the child would stick it to her.

Today, tamales are an important part of the Mexican diet, very popular in Christmas parties, posadas and baptismal celebrations. They are also used as offerings in the Day of the Dead festivities, celebrated on November 1 and 2 and in celebration of Candlemas, which symbolizes the end of the Advent period of the Catholic liturgical year.

Every year in Mexico City the Latin American Tamale Fair is celebrated in the first days of November, coinciding with the celebration of the Day of the Dead. In the week before February 2, the Feria del Tamal is celebrated in commemoration of Candlemas day.

As a curious fact, the tamale has its place in the popular sayings of Mexico, among which one that is still used is, "He who is born for tamale, from heaven the leaves fall", which refers to that one cannot escape his destiny, or that providence favors those who are carrying out their mission in life.

Tamales from Mexico City

It is common to get the typical corn tamales with green or red sauce, accompanied by pork or chicken. The great demand for them has caused the birth of companies dedicated to their production and sale, such as the Flor de Lis tamales (of long tradition), Emporio and Tamalli tamales, of the style of the center of the country, or the Chata tamales of the state of Sinaloa.

In this city, they are consumed either naturally or inside a wheat bread (torta), a combination known as guajolota, accompanied by exquisite atole.

Oaxacan Tamales

Traditionally made with corn dough and wrapped in banana leaf or corn husk (although they are less common). Generally made of pork or chicken with black mole, they can also be made of iguana meat, filled with yellow mole and chipilin.

Zacahuil

This is perhaps the largest and most voluminous tamale. Also known as tamal de fiesta, it is typical of the Huasteca region - which includes the mountainous areas of the Mexican states of San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Hidalgo and Queretaro, through which the Sierra Madre Oriental passes.

This tamale, which is prepared in a metal vat, can measure up to three meters and weigh up to 50 kilos. Because of its size, it is cooked in a horizontal earthenware oven heated with wood embers. The dough, which is made from shredded corn (unlike most tamales in which the corn is ground much more) is painted a slightly red color with dry chilli powder. It is usually filled with pork or chicken, although this can vary at the request of customers.

It is very common to find it in the town squares from very early on, on Saturdays and Sundays. It is a dish that is served in abundant portions in a deep dish, on a roasted banana leaf, and eaten with a spoon. It is accompanied by jalapeño peppers, onion fillets and carrot slices, all pickled in water with vinegar and spices. Since this is a dish that is regularly eaten for breakfast, it is common to accompany it with café de olla, which is a black coffee sweetened with piloncillo and cinnamon.

Yucatecan Tamales

Wrapped in banana leaves, they are filled with the dough of corn and cochinita pibil. Cochinita pibil is a stew made of lean shredded pork meat, in a broth of axiote, sour orange juice and other spices.

Corundas and tamales from Michoacán

The corundas are originally from the state of Michoacán, but are known throughout western Mexico, as in the states of Jalisco and Colima.

The word k'urhunda comes from the Purepecha language, typical of the indigenous people of the region, and is translated into Spanish as tamal. The corundas are simple, made with vegetables, cheese and tequesquite scrambled with the dough, wrapped in the leaf of the corn plant and given a conical or pyramidal triangular shape. They are also generally smaller than the typical tamales from the rest of the country. The corn used for the dough has often been boiled in ashes instead of lime. It is usually served with cream and green or red sauce. It is the main component of corundas soup, and accompanies another typical dish, churipo.

It is worth mentioning that there is a variant of corundas, the charikurindas, whose main ingredient is beans instead of corn. In addition to corundas, it is customary to make tamales filled with meat and chile, similar to the typical tamales in the rest of the country, although here they are called nacatamales.

The uchepo is another typical tamale of the state, generally of the sweet type.

Tamales in the Northeast

They're thinner than the rest of the country. They are made with corn dough, in corn husk from the same plant and with meat stew. The dough is made by grinding corn kernels cooked with lime (nixtamal), then seasoned and spread on wet corn husks, adding the meat filling (usually pork but can also be beef or chicken), cooked beans and cheese or vegetable stew; the husk is rolled up and cooked.

Asturian Tamales

The Asturian community-based in Mexico created a culinary mestizaje little known to Mexicans, giving shape to a new tamale called "Spanish or Asturian tamale". The dough is made by grinding corn kernels cooked with lime (nixtamal), then seasoned and spread on wet corn husks, adding the filling of Serrano ham with pork, although it can also have bacon, Manchego cheese and beans known as fabas, the corn husk is rolled up and steamed.

Tamales from Sonora

The Sonoran tamales are thin and of medium size. The dough is ground in the (nixtamal), seasoned and the meat is cooked with the onion and two garlic. The red peppers or guajillos are cleaned, soaked in hot water and liquefied. They are spread on wet corn leaves and the filling is added with pork, beef, chicken or ground meat, with carrots and peas. These ingredients are very spicy and the corn leaves are often pigmented with the color of the chili.

Sinaloan Tamales

In addition to the typical Sinaloan tamales, other typical tamales are cooked in the state of Sinaloa, such as the silly tamales, made only of dough, without meat or any other filling; and the barbeque tamales, typical of the coastal city of Escuinapa, made of shrimp and where the head and 'beards' of the shrimp come out of the tamale.

Sweet and corn tamales

Sweet tamales are made with sweetened corn dough and filled with honey, guava jam, strawberry, pineapple, quince or other fruit. They are used on children's birthdays and are usually Mexican pink, similar to magenta, although on rare occasions they are painted yellow, lime green or purple to give them a Mexican identity.

Corn tamales also have a sweet flavor, and are filled only with sweetened corn dough, wrapped in green corn leaves, sometimes containing a few grains of corn.

In Chiapas, there are also indigenous regions where tamales are made with banana leaves, in the style of the Mayan Indians, at Christmas and New Year's Eve. You can find these tamales in the north, south and east of the state.

DEFINITION OF TAMALE

A culinary description of tamal is a mixture of batter with fat, stuffed and seasoned according to the way of each place, wrapped in corn or banana leaf and steamed.

From the pre-Hispanic era, in the Aztec Imperial cuisine And at the Moctezuma table, the tamal has been an important part of Mexican cuisine

Carlos Lumhotz, in his book Unknown Mexico, mentions "the ritual tamales" (tamales in honour of the gods) found among the Huicholes of Jalisco, Tarascans of Michoacán, Tarahumara of Chihuahua, and Tepehuanes of Durango.

The word tamal comes from the Nahuatl word tamalli, which appears in the prehispanic vocabulary elaborated by Alonso de Molina, a dictionary of the XXI century.

Let's see what the Mexican Cook tells us in the form of a dictionary, 1888 about the definition of the tamale and its varieties:

"Tamal: Voice that brings its origin from the Mexican Tamalli, and means a kind of tasty and delicate bread, made with the mass of corn, which the ancient inhabitants of this continent used more than the tortillas that were their common bread, as they are so until the day not only of their descendants but of many others who descend from the Spaniards, who eat them for pleasure. The same happens with the tamales, which are not taken to replace bread, but rather with it an appetite, because they are very pleasing to the palate, at the same time as nutritious and of good digestion. "

Ingredients of the tamale

Ingredients for the tamale dough:

Dough

Butter

Beef calx (or cinnamon infusion for sweet tamales)

Baking powder, tequizquite or tomato leaf cooking

Salt (or sugar to taste for sweet tamales).

Preparation:

Accrete butter. Add alternately the meat and flour dish previously stirred with the salt and baking powder (or the tequizquite or tomato leaf cooking). Beat the mixture until it is at its point, this is when dropping a bit of dough into a glass of water, that is floating on the surface.

If it disintegrates or goes to the bottom, it is necessary to beat a little more. The consistency of the dough should be smooth if it is a little hard to add more meat or water soup and continue beating.

HOW TO MAKE TAMALES

Wash the corn leaves thoroughly with water, then soak them for about an hour and drain thoroughly.

Ethno-historical vision: Tamales with fried machas and guacamole. Photo: Tavallai via Flickr
Ethno-historical vision: Tamales with fried machas and guacamole. Photo: Tavallai via Flickr

Take leaf by leaf, on the concave side, and apply a spoonful of the dough, then put a little filling in the centre. Double and form the tamale. As you do, place them vertically in a tamale pot, steamer or prepared pot. Steam without getting wet and without water reaching its level, for an hour until it is easily detached from the leaf

You can use

a) nixtamal masa for tortillas, or

b) nixtamalized special flour for tamales.

If the flour is used, it must be moistened with a little stock (pork or beef) warm and strained, until it reaches the consistency of the dough. A kilo of lard is usually used for two kilos of dough.

First butter is beaten (it is recommended that it is cold) in a large bowl. A wooden spoon is used. Cold water is added little by little until the butter is white and fluffy. A kilo of butter takes approximately 30 minutes to reach this point. You can also melt the butter instead of beating it.

To the whipped butter add the dough or flour (previously moistened with broth), broth and baking powder, as indicated by the recipe. The mixture of dough or flour with butter should be light or fluffy.

The broth that is added to the dough should be warm and strained (as indicated in most recipes). It is known that the dough does not need more broth when it does not drain when putting it on the sheet that will wrap the tamale.

The dough is ready and has the necessary lightness when a ball (half a teaspoon) put in a glass of cold water does not sink.

The wrap of the tamale

It is very important to properly treat the leaves that are used to wrap the tamales. The function of the leaves is to shape and enclose them gently during cooking in certain cases also provides aromatic elements.

Types of tamale leaves

Corn leaves are those that wrap the fresh corn, are tender and flexible. They are separated from the corn using a knife, carefully, trying to keep them whole. Wash them and dry. With one or two leaves each tamale is wrapped, the ends are bent and tied with a strip taken from a large leaf.

The dry leaf of the ear or the dry leaf is called totomoxtle, with them, bundles are formed and, with several bundles, large moored wheels that are sold in the markets, to make them flexible they are left to soak in water for two or more hours, as they dry that they are.

The wrap of the tamale
The wrap of the tamale

Maize leaves of milpa are the leaves of corn plants not of the ears. They are used when they are still green, fresh and tender; If necessary, soak in water for a few minutes. They wash and dry; they are used almost exclusively for the small tamales typical of Michoacán called corundas.

Banana leaves: with a well-cut knife the central rib of the leaf is trimmed, starting at the tip. Cut into square pieces of 30 cm. on the side, discarding the broken or perforated parts. To soften the banana leaves there are three methods.

Boiling them in water or putting them in a water bath (30-20 min.)

Passing the square pieces by a hot comal first on one side and then on the other, until they are flexible and change colour.

Put them in bundles in the microwave oven for one minute.

Tamales wrapped in other leaves

Occasionally tamales are wrapped in reed leaves, chaya (in the Yucatecan tamalito called tzotobilchay), holy leaf (also called acuyo or momo), spinach, chilaca, etc. When the leaves are not flexible, they are left in water for a few minutes, for the lashing a string is used, without tightening a lot.

CANDLEMAS DAY

The fact that tamales are eaten on Candlemas Day is not a simple gastronomic whim, but is closely related to the Catholic ritual substratum of the above-mentioned celebration of the Virgin. The tamale, of pre-Hispanic origin, was used as an important part in the offerings to the gods of the Aztec pantheon. It is worth mentioning that February 2 corresponded to the beginning of the first day of the first month of the Mexica calendar called Atlcahualo or Quauitleoa.

This month began on the second day of February, when we celebrated the purification of Our Lady. On the first day of this month, they celebrated a feast in honour of the gods Tlaloques, those who were considered gods of rain, according to others, celebrated his sister, the goddess of water Chalchiuhtlicuo and others, in honour of the great priest or god of the winds Quetzalcoatl. -Sahagún.

The Mexicas used tamales as offerings and as part of the rites, they performed throughout the months that made up their ritual year.

As Fray Bernardino tells us, he cites ten celebrations in which this cornbread was used. But now we will only mention the second month, called Tlacachipehualiztli, Ayacachpixolo feast, in which

... they made some tamales called tzatzapaltamalli, made of bledos (amaranth) or ashes, mainly they made these tamales in a neighborhood called Coátlan and they offered them in the same temple of the place in front of the goddess to which they called Coatlicue or Coatlantonan, to which these teachers of making flowers had great devotion.

This very Mexican food accompanies the festivities of the mayordomias like the garlic tamale, from Texcoco, Edo. of Mexico, the tamales of huanzontle seed, special for Holy Week and the white aniseed tamale prepared to be put in the Day of the Dead offerings. The tamale in Mexico has left somewhat its ritual use to become one of the most popular foods for daily consumption.

Who does not know the traditional Mexican breakfast that we can buy in any corner: a glass of atole (strawberry, cajeta, rice or the popular champurrado) and a red, green, sliced tamale with cheese or a Oaxacan tamale with mole, alone or in a cake inside a loom (French-style white bread).

There is an infinite variety of tamales with ingredients such as:

Salt tamales: with green chile, red chile, mole, beans, ayocote, cheese, peanuts, huitlacoche, brains, iguana meat, deer meat, chicken, pork, fish, seafood, beans, seed cream, chaya, dogfish, nopales, frog, biznaga, verdolagas, hoja santa, epazote, poblano chile strips, in which chile will always be present as the main ingredient.

And there are sweets with: walnuts, raisins, pineapple, coconut, prunes, pine nuts or capulin.

The way of wrapping them is also very varied: with corn leaves like the corundas of Michoacán, with dried corn leaves which are the most popular form, with banana leaves mainly in the coastal or tropical zone or with leaves of holy grass those of beans.

Of course, atole also has a wide variety of ingredients. Atole is usually made from corn flour, the grain that appears after sifting the flour from the ground corn.

It can be white, without milk, or with milk, sweetened with piloncillo, with sugar, with honey, chocolate, cinnamon, or vanilla; it can have natural flavor of fruits such as: strawberry, guava, tamarind, prune, nut.

The classic atole is the white one, which is made with a mass of nixtamal and water, which is recommended for those who are sick, to take it first bite a piece of piloncillo, and then sip a drink of atole.

We cannot forget the champurrado made with water or milk, cinnamon and chocolate, if you have cocoa available, better. But it will always be richer if it is served very hot and to cool it down we must not forget the "jiggle" of the mug or cup so that it does not burn when we drink it.

HOW TO CELEBRATE CANDLEMAS DAY

Candlemas Day is celebrated on February 2 each year. It is a celebration that has its origin with the customs that were lived when Jesus was born and those that we have developed through the years, like the departure of the traditional "rosca de reyes".

At the time when Jesus was born, it was customary for mothers and children to remain locked up in their homes for 41 days, so that the mother could recover and be purified.

At that time the children were taken to the temple, along with an offering that could be a lamb, doves, flowers or turtle doves and were presented to the priests.

St. Luke tells us in his gospel that when Mary and her newborn son Jesus entered the temple, the wise Simeon took him in his arms and blessed him, saying that he would be the light that would illuminate the Gentiles and that he would be the glory of Israel.

Hence, on February 2, 41 days after the birth of Jesus, the day of the Candlemas is celebrated. The name comes from the "candles" that represent the light of Christ, proclaimed by Simeon.

But it doesn't end there, do you remember that on January 6th the family and friends gathered to break a delicious "rosca" that had one or more "little children" inside and someone finding it in their slice, commented "I get the tamales!

Well, the "little boy" was hidden because he represents the baby Jesus when he "hid from the soldiers who wanted to kill him", and the person who found him in his tasty slice, became his "godfather or godmother", which means that he made a commitment to take care of him and represent him, but also to make a dinner with delicious tamales, on February 2nd.

But, the tradition of the "child gods" goes much further than remembering the historical fact and offering tamales to the guests. Many families elegantly dress up their child gods who have belonged to their families for many generations, and on February 2 they take them to church to be blessed by the priest.

The child, dressed in all luxury, is placed in a basket with flowers or seated on a throne and after the mass of blessing, he joins family and friends to celebrate the event with tamales and a hot, sparkling atole.

Dressing up the children as gods has become a popular activity in the popular markets and the most requested attire is

- Those of the Santo Niño de Atocha, with his staff and sitting on a chair.

- The one of San Francisco, with his brown habit and his sandals.

- The Child of the lilies, with a white robe and a lily stick in his hand.

- The Child Juan Dieguito, with his shirt embroidered with the Virgin of Guadalupe.

- The Child of the doves with his white robe and a dove in his hands and many others.

TAMALES IN THE WORLD

In the United States

Tamales have become a very common dish in the United States - especially in the southern states - thanks to the great cultural exchange with Mexico and the Spanish-speaking community. In the Southwest, it is typically prepared around Christmas. The traditional word in English is tamale (the result of removing the finals from the plural tamales to form the singular).

However, it is increasingly common to say tamale, particularly in regions with Spanish-speaking communities, as for some it seems illiterate to say tamale. The tamale has been adapted to North American tastes and new varieties have been created by adding different fillings to the traditional tamale.

In Central America

In Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Bolivia they are usually prepared with corn dough, lard, broth, and some filling that can be salty (meat, stew) or sweet (fruits), all wrapped in leaves, usually the same leaves of the corn cob or banana tree. The cooking is steamed or in an oven.

Tamales in Guatemala

In the classic time of the Mayas, for the winter solstice, on December 21st, the great Mayan lords were delighted with a bun of cooked dough, which they mixed with turkey meat, tepezcuintle or venison. Later, gastronomic elements such as spices, olives, capers and chili peppers, among others, were added to the dough.

Over the years, this food became part of the traditions of Guatemalans, whose tradition on Christmas Eve is that families give out black, red or sweet tamales to family and friends as a sign of appreciation.

They are served with chocolate, egg yolk bread and punch, after participating in Midnight Mass. It is customary in Guatemala to taste a dish at midnight on December 24 and 31.

While the gunpowder expresses the joy of the Christmas and New Year holidays, the palate receives the whim of this mestizo dish, known as tamale. Turkey, grapes and apples may be missing from the Christmas festivities during the New Year's Eve, but the traditional sweet and salty tamales are never missing. Guatemalans also use tamales for celebrations of holidays, birthdays, baptisms, etc, so the tamale is considered a very important dish in the culture of Guatemala.

The tamale is so famous in Guatemala that it even exists in its sweet version, in which the same corn dough is used, but it is seasoned with a sweet treat made of chocolate, almonds, plums, seeds and chilies.

Types of Guatemalan tamales

The red tamales owe their name to the tomato, made with corn dough, stuffed with errands, raisins, chilies, chicken, beef or pork, wrapped in banana leaves.

There are the cambray tamales, which contain raisins and almonds, the sweet tamales filled with sweet stuffing, the black tamales, which have this name because of the color given by the chocolate, chipilín tamales wrapped in corn leaves, loroco tamales and corn tamales among others.

The chuchitos a variation of the Guatemalan tamale

Chuchitos is a very typical and emblematic dish of Guatemala. It is a variation of the tamale made from corn dough but with a much firmer consistency. It is usually mixed with a tomato filling that can be chicken, beef or pork, wrapped with tusas (dried leaves that wrap around the corn). The chuchito is usually accompanied by a tomato sauce and sprinkled with hard Zacapa cheese. It is a very common dish among the population of Guatemala and is the main guest at lunches, dinners and celebrations.

In Nicaragua

In Nicaragua, different types of tamales are prepared, some of them made of ground tender corn, with sour cream and cheese, others with or without a sweet and cheese filling and wrapped with the same corn leaf or banana tree. In addition, tamales filled with meat are prepared, which are called Nacatamales.

Nacatamales are made of corn dough, pork fat, pork or chicken, prepared with achiote, rice, potato, mint, tomato, chili and in some cases olives, raisins and plums, this is to taste. All this mixture is wrapped in banana tree leaves, tied with vegetable fiber from the same banana tree and boiled for about 4 hours.

The Nacatamal is a usual weekend meal, because on Saturdays and Sundays you can see small signs announcing the product in towns, cities and regions throughout the country.

In El Salvador and Costa Rica

Apart from the traditional pork or chicken tamales (which are the most common), there are also other varieties, always based on corn, among them: those of chipilín (scientific name of the plant: crotalaraia longirostrata), in which leaves of this vegetable are incorporated into the dough, the so-called "pishques", made from ground beans mixed with corn and ash. Both types use banana or plantain leaves as wrapping and lack a filling.

Additionally, corn tamales are also consumed, whose main ingredient is ground corn grains (elote) mixed with milk or butter, they do not have a filling and are wrapped in the leaves of the same corn (elote), can also be eaten fried.

The "ball" tamales, so-called because of their spherical shape, are basically made of corn dough wrapped in tuzas (corn husks), without a filling or additional ingredient. The purpose of the ball tamales, was initially to replace the tortillas at Easter, a time when the nixtamal mills did not work out of respect for the faith, but now, with the advent of the corn flour already prepared, these tamales have tended to disappear like the nixtamal mills.

Finally, in El Salvador, sweet tamales are known as "de azúcar" and their filling is usually based on raisins. This type of tamale has also become increasingly scarce.

In Dominican Republic

Tamales in the Dominican Republic are called pastel en hoja, where instead of corn, mainly food is used. Among the most commonly used foods for the preparation of this dish are: green guineos, yautías, green or ripe bananas, auyamas and yams.

Beef, chicken, pork and even vegetables are usually used for the filling. Traditionally, the sheet cake is wrapped in banana peel once it has been made, although sometimes waxed or cellulose paper is also used.

In Colombia

In Colombia there are different varieties of tamales; depending on the region for example: In Cauca tamales have peanuts, the llaneros (hallacas) have turtle meat, the costinos are made in December to celebrate the New Year (like in Venezuela), etc.

The most famous Colombian tamales are those of Tolima; department located in the central region of the country; basically the tamale is composed of a corn flour, rice and peas, accompanied by boiled egg, a slice of carrot, a portion of bacon, pork and a chicken, seasoned slightly with salt and pepper, all cooked and wrapped in a banana leaf, usually served with arepa or bread and chocolate. It is a quite traditional dish and is usually eaten on weekends.

In Argentina

It is traditionally made from corn flour and anco (a variety of pumpkin), and is filled with pig's head meat, raisins, eggs and seasoning. It is covered with "chala" (dried corn leaf) and tied. It is cooked in a pot with boiling water and salt.

This type of food is common in the northern zone, in the provinces of Salta and Jujuy. However, in the south of Argentina, it is not very common to eat these dishes.

In Peru

Peruvian anthropologist Humberto Rodríguez Pastor highlights the tamale as an Afro-Peruvian legacy in his work "Life in the Peruvian Tamale Environment". The aforementioned tamale is introduced in this territory since the first years of the Spanish presence that came with their slaves mainly from the Atlantic coast of the African continent.

In the Gastronomy of Peru there are different types of tamales according to the region of origin, although they are prepared throughout the country:

On the coast, they are prepared with beef, pork, or chicken. Some add boiled eggs, olives or boiled peanuts.

The Norteños, prepare it with coriander (cilantro), which makes it take on the color green.