Tis Tamalada Season, They Are Memory Making!

Posted on Updated on

Tis tamales making season… at least in recent centuries.  Though, historically,

Tamales have been traced back to the Ancient Maya people, who prepared them for feasts as early as the Preclassic period (1200–250 BC).[2]Maya people called their corn tortillas and tamales both utah[utah].[3]Tamales originated in Mesoamerica as early as 8000 to 5000 BC.[1]Aztec and Maya civilizations, as well as the Olmeca and Tolteca before them, used tamales as portable food, often to support their armies, but also for hunters and travelers. Tamale use in the Inca Empire had been reported long before the Spanish visited the New World.[1]The diversity of native languages in Mesoamerica led to a number of local words for the tamal, many of which remain in use. The Spanish singular of tamales is tamal. The English word “tamale” is an American back-formation of tamales.[4]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamale

In Mexico tamales are on street corners and in majority of the mercados, commonly served for breakfast because it’s filing and warm! And in the US, especially in highly populated Latino demographic areas such as California, Texas, Illinois, one can find a variety of restaurants selling tamales.  Here in Minnesota, El Burrito Mercado was one of the first to sell tamales from a restaurant/market in St. Paul, MN, and because of it’s labor intense process, many restaurants won’t make them.  It’s a grand commitment and I imagine the Latino population isn’t quite extensive enough to support the variety and competition in MN to justify the commitment, at least not in the same way that other business’ flourish in other populated parts of the country.  None the less, tamales has made its way into Minnesotans tummies through El Burrito Mercado and other local successful Latino business’, such as La Loma Tamales whom sell from their restaurants and manufacture and distribute tamales into mainstream markets.


Tamales are a time consuming process, and though the most popular of tamales in the USA are Mexican tamales, they are not exclusive to Mexico.  In Venezuela & Colombia for example theirs are known as ‘hallacas’ also filled with meat varieties, the corn flour is distinct of the Mexican preparation and they are wrapped in plantain banana leaves.  Here, Adriana Lopez from PicaPica does an amazing task of breaking down the hallaca making recipe!  Venezolanos and their cuisine has a special place in my heart, one of my cousins married a gentleman from Venezuela and we all became very close, his name was Jose, (he died at a young age a few years ago, RIP). I was very young child when I met him, and growing up with Jose in my life, is a blessing!  He was one of my greatest influencers for my now deeply established appreciation and enjoyment of salsa music, Venezuelan food, and Latino culture as a whole!  Besides Puerto Rican food, Venezuelen food (especially arepas) is my other favorite latino cuisine.

Hallaca with Pica Pica, Adriana Lopez


There are many, many recipes on the internet for making tamales, and they are all very similar with slight variations in preferences, the most traditional is the pork in mole rojo (pork in a chile ancho red sauce).  I am not including a from scratch recipe in this blog, so for making tamales from scratch and if you don’t have your own, here are a couple recommendations to consider: Rick Bayless Tamales Recipe, Diane Kennedy 

Also, as a reference, Maseca has some great recipes on their website of a variety of Latino tamales! Maseca is one of El Burrito Mercado top selling items year round and especially during the holidays! It’s a corn flour used to make the ‘masa’, the corn dough for spreading onto the corn husk for Mexican tamales. It’s also commonly used to make tortillas and other delightful recipes. If you are new to the entire tortilla making or tamales making process, Maseca is a great an option, or you may also want to consider purchasing ‘masa preparada’ (prepared corn dough ready to use) from our deli, we source from a local tortilleria and you’ll appreciate the real ground and fresh corn flavor!

For those of you wanting to immerse into the full tamale preparation and tamalada experience, remember the above recommendations or find your favorite recipe, and please do keep in mind El Burrito Mercado as your source for all your ingredient needs, also contact us with questions, we are glad to help!


My primary focus is to emphasize the experience of making tamales, the memory of it all.  As a kid, like all kids, I looked forward to the holidays because of the gifts, the cookie baking, the holiday parties, and I cherished the time spent with family making and eating tamales.  My tamales memories are of being together with family, the noise and hustle bustle of everyone squeezing into the kitchen or wherever we could fit tables and chairs to begin the assembly… aka the TAMALADA!

“The tamalada is more than a cooking session—it is a family reunion, a party in itself, a chance for the kids to play and the adults to catch up on all the news about the aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends. It’s the warm-up session for the family celebrations to come. ” http://www.focusonmexico.com/News-and-Views/Articles/2008-Newsletters/February–Articles/La-Tamalada-Mexican-women-share-holiday-tamale-making-tradition.html

So yes amigos, you will need several items even for the ‘easy’ tamalada gathering, by easy, I am referring to obtaining the ready ingredients at El Burrito Mercado so that all you need to do is get your friends and family together and assemble! Here is the list:

  • Family & Friends
  • Specialty holiday cocktails strongly encouraged
  • Snacks
  • Fun, Mexican & Latino background music
  • And nice size dining table and/or counter space!

And, you’ll also need (all available at El Burrito Mercado):

1. Prepared Masa (prepared masa ready to spread on the husks)

Prepared Masa

2. Hojas de Maiz (corn husks), these need to be soaked in hot water to make pliable and easy to spread the masa onto.

Soaked Corn Husks

3. Carne en Mole (meat & sauce, cheese, chiles, or other filling options, available at El Burrito Mercado’s exclusive Mexican deli)

Carne y Mole for Tamales

4. Tamalera Vaporera (the pot to steam cook your tamales)

Other items you may consider: spoons or knives to spread the masa, or this new convenient tool, Tamales Spreader which will be available for purchase at El Burrito Mercado this holiday season!

Tamales Spreader

Here is a video on how to use the spreader, I have yet to try this myself, I’ll keep you posted on our results. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVAyPqYcxLA

In 2012 we offered our first Tamalada event, this is our third year offering tamalada events and they are consistent with our objection to offer our community and customers a true experiencia Mexicana! At the events, participants learn a lot about tamales from my mother, Maria Silva, while my mother does not have formal culinary education nor is she a ‘chef’, she is our chef and she is one of the most respected and best cooks in the Twin Cities when it comes to Mexican cuisine.  The event is offered in our Cafe and Bar and is fun, relaxed setting intended to offer a comfortable ambiance fit for a tamalada with friends and family!  Learn about traditional Mexican holiday foods, beverages, and traditions as well as make your own tamales while spending enjoyable time with friends & family making memories and delicious tamales to take home and cook for the holidays!

This year we are offering two TAMALADAS, November 30th & December 7th 4pm, the evening includes dinner, two traditional holiday cocktails, dessert, a fun lesson, tamales making, and a special gift & certificates.


Kids Tamalada Fun!
Kids Tamalada Fun!
Maria Silva, Owner, Mexican Cuisine Expert
Maria Silva describing the ingredients for making tamales.

El Burrito Merc LogoIMG_4821IMG_0105

We are also offering new this year a Kids Tamalada on Saturday, Nov. 29th 9:30am, breakfast & treats included, interactive tamales lesson and then tamales making! Registration information: https://socialari.webconnex.com/tamalada


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s