Archive for February, 2009

Tamale Mania party


A couple of years ago I wanted to celebrate my 60th birthday by having friends over to cook and eat together.  I knew I wanted to make it a Mexican party because my husband and I had recently moved into a part of Oakland that was near a large Mexican community.  The local markets were full of the most interesting ingredients and I wanted to cook with as many of them as I could.  I knew I wanted to have a Mexican barbacoa but when I discovered  a tortilleria where freshly made masa was sold, I knew I just HAD to include homemade tamales in my menu.

So I sent out an invitation to about 75 of my friends inviting them to join me in this adventure. About 25 friends responded to the tamale making part.  The rest of the guests opted to join us  for the Mexican barbeque in the afternoon. The menu would include three kinds of tamales; chicken mole in banana leaves, pork with red chili and  pumpkin tamales for dessert.  The barbecue would have puerco pibil, grilled whole fish, carne asada, coriander rice, drunken beans and of course lots of beer and mojitos.

The day before the party I prepared enough filling for 400 tamales.  Okay, that sounds a bit obsessive now but I had a good excuse !  I’m Chinese and we’re always worried that there won’t be enough food !

pork tamales in progress

The next day 25 friends trooped into my kitchen with 9 food processors in hand along with 1 pound of butter each to make the tamales as outlined by Alice Guadalupe Tapp in her book “Tamales 101”.  The goal was to beat the masa until it floated in water.  This phenomena would insure that the cooked masa would have a fluffy texture.  It was not so easy but it was fun.  Some people got kinda competitive.  But eventually one person, then more people got the hang of how to beat it until it floated.  Then onto the filling, wrapping and steaming.  It was a grand assembly line of laughing people.  I even got a corn husk crown and skirt out of the extra husks.

tamale assembly

While we waited for the first batch to cook I fed everyone pupusas from Lupitas Pupuseria down the street.   The grassy aroma of the banana leaves steaming whetted our appetites for our first batch of tamales with chicken in oaxacan mole sauce. When it was ready we gathered around the platter, threw caution to the wind and opened up our hot little tamale packages.  It was a huge success!   Our sweaty faces shone with the pleasure of  being rewarded with these absolutely yummy toothsome tamales !  All fillings were incredible!  The Mexican barbecue was a hit also.

Steaming the pork tamales

As I sent my guests home with baggies filled with tamales I thought the best part of this party was seeing my very diverse group of friends finally meet each other, laugh and cook together.  It was the absolutely best birthday party I had ever had !  Can’t wait for my 70th !

Chicken tamale and banana leaf in progress

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