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I’ve always been jealous of tamale-eaters.  Most of tamales include pork in their filling and I’ve been tempted with chicken/beef fillings but I kept my strength.  What I later learned was that even if you have a vegetarian friendly filling, the masa (dough) that encase the filling typically has pork lard in it.  

I was so sad that I wouldn’t be able to have tamales.  It never occurred to me that I could make it myself because I thought you had to have some hispanic blood in you that automatically gives you the magical abilities to make tamales.  It wasn’t until a few weekends ago I joined my asian friend to help her make tamales.  If she could do it, I certainly could learn.  The masa was store-bought and she had already made the fillings before I arrived so I just helped her out assembling the tamales. 

 When I left her place, I knew I had to give it a try on my own.  After some searching, reading, and watching Alton Brown’s Good Eats episode, I felt comfortable doing it on myself. 

 I learned that making tamales is actually a very easy process that just takes some time to assemble.  Traditionally they are made in a large batch with a group of people and they keep well over a period of time.  They’re good as a snack or a quick meal.  Pop it in the microwave for 30 sec and you’re good to go.  I had exams the week after I made tamales and it’s basically what I ate throughout finals since I didn’t have time to make anything else. 


 Masa Dough

 4 1/2 cups of masa harina (I used Maseca company)

 3 3/4 cup cold water

 1 tbs kosher salt (yes kosher salt, if you don’t have kosher you table salt but reduce the amount of salt)

 4-5 tbs vegetable shortening

 In a large mixing bowl mix together the masa harina and salt.  Add the water slowly and mix it with the flour until combined.  Now mix in the shortening, making sure it’s evenly distributed throughout the dough. 

 Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 2 days.  The consistency that the masa should be is that it should easily spread onto your corn husk when assembling the tamales. 

 Bean and Cheese Filling

 1 bag of corn husks (can be found at local grocery stores such as Wal-Mart or HEB)

 3 tbs vegetable shortening

 1/2 cup white onion, chopped

 3 garlic cloves, minced

 2 tsp kosher salt (yes kosher, 2 tsp table salt will be too much)

 2 jalapeno, de-seeded, chopped

 1/2 tsp of cummin and red pepper

 2 (15oz) cans of black beans, drained

 3/4 c queso fresco, finely crumbled

 Place the corn husks in a large bowl and cover with water, using weights to keep the  husks submerged.  Soak for an 1-2 hours till the husks are pliable.  Drain water, squeeze and pat dry.  In a saucepan/skillet heat the shortening till its melted.  Add the onion, garlic, jalapeno, and salt.  Cook until the onions have softened.  Season with the cummin and red pepper.  

 Mix in the beans and cook till the mixture comes together and little liquid is left.  Remove from heat and fold in cheese.  Cool to room temperature before using. 


 Lay one corn husk in front of you, with the wide mouth facing you, vertically.  Take couple tablespoons of masa and spread evenly and thinly on the lower half of the corn husk.  Take one tablespoon of filling and place it vertically in the middle of the masa so it almost looks like a line. 

my sad attempt of a drawing to show where the masa & filling should go

  Now take the right side and fold it over so it almost meets the left side.  Fold the remaining left over the right.  Now fold the tamale so the filled bottom meets the top empty peak.  Repeat the process until filling/dough is finished. 

 Once you’re done assembling, in a pot place a steamer and add enough water to cover the bottom of the pot, making sure the water doesn’t come above the steamer.  Carefully stack the tamales in the steamer and turn on medium heat.  Cover pot with a lid.  Steam the tamales for about an hour, making sure to add water so the pot doesn’t burn. 

 You can tell that they are done if when you unfold the tamale, the tamale easily peels away from the corn husks.  Eat warm by itself or a salsa. 


Sorry no pics this time either, I finally found my camera so pics will be up in a few more posts.  To make up for it here are the two Good Eats episodes to show you how to assemble. 


One thought on “Tamales!

    arshia said:
    May 4, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    sounds like a good item for iftari’s

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