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A Journey Into Paradise

Holiday Cooking and Mexico Real Estate: Unwrapping the Tamale

23 December, 2012

Esteemed culinary vacation specialists from The International Kitchen headed south to warm,sunny Mexico real estate this Christmas season to uncover the nation’s secrets surrounding one of its most famous foods: Tamales. In most of Mexico’s kitchens during the holidays,you would likely find a number of people hard at work making tamales for the upcoming Christmas feast. 

Of course,the locals,visitors and expats also enjoy tamales at other times of the year,but they are almost always made for Christmas. This tradition came about in part because the proper making of tamales is quite labor intensive and can take up to an entire day,with the prep work beginning several days in advance.

Families will typically gather a day or two before Christmas to make the tamales,which are made nowadays of masa,a type of hominy flour dough,which is spread onto a clean corn shuck and stuffed with various combinations of carefully seasoned beef,chicken or pork,chiles,cheese,vegetables and even fruit,depending on the family’s own preference and traditional,hand-me-down recipes.

To uncover the origin of tamales in Mexico’s history,one would have to travel all the way back to ancient times when the region’s native Aztec and Maya people prepared them for feasts and used them as easily portable food,sometimes to feed an army,but also whenever hunting or traveling was required.

Cooking the tamales traditionally involved burying them in hot ashes to make them crispy and brown,but later this method evolved and by the time the Spanish conquistadors arrived the tamales were typically steamed,either covered or uncovered. 

Today,tamales remain a staple comfort food in Mexico and cooking them is still often done in batches of tens or even hundreds at once. As with the type of filling and combinations used,the thickness of the dough and the ratio of the filling to dough are all subject to family preference and vary widely from one region – or even from one household – to another.