Thursday, February 23, 2012

Canada's Flavours Part 2 - Handmade Tamales

I love tamales when they are done right which in my experience does not happen too often. The only place that makes good tamales close by is Aqua Verde in U-District. However, it is not on their regular menu. I get them there when they are a "daily special." I have tried tamales in other Mexican restaurants and the biggest problem for tamale is to taste like a tough blob of corn which you try to mask with sour cream, cheese and piles of salsa.

Few years back I got introduced to the Flavours Magazine from Canada while on a trip to Victoria, BC. That issue had the recipe for tamales which I made. This week again I decided to make tamales. The best part of the recipe is the dough - it comes out moist, fresh and has a nice corn smell. Here is a link to the original recipe from Flavours and below I describe how I made them in my kitchen. 


2 chicken breasts
4 fresh tomatillos
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and cut in half
1 clove of garlic
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup water
Fresh cilantro, few springs
Salt and Pepper to taste

1 pack of dried corn husks (I used Los Chileros brand)
2/3 cup of vegetable shortening
2 cups of dried corn masa mix
2 cups of water
1 teaspoon of baking powder
Salt to taste


1. Start out by softening the corn husks following the recipe on a package which is to boil a big pot of water, add dried corn husks to it, turn the heat off and let husks stay in hot water for 1 hour.

2. Next, prepare filling. Remove husks from tomatillos, wash them and cut in quarters. Add tomatillos, jalapeno pepper, garlic and onions into a small pot. Add water, salt and pepper to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until tomatillos are soft but not falling apart (10-15 minutes). Remove tomatillos from the heat and let cool.

3. You can cook chicken ahead of time. I simply fried 2 chicken breasts in olive oil in a pan and let them cool off. My food processor is small so I had to chop tomatillos and chicken separately and then combined them in a big bowl. I started by chopping tomatillos mixture and then chicken and cilantro. I tasted the filling for salt and added a bit more. I always err on a side of salting less than more since you can always add salt later but taking it out is tricky.

4. I followed the original recipe step by step in making the dough. I fluffed shortening with a fork first, then added corn masa, baking power and salt and thoroughly mixed all ingredients with my hands. I then added water and mixed ingredients together until the dough got to a spongy consistency.

5. Finally, we can assemble tamales. Take one corn husk and spread some dough in the middle, put filling closer to one side and then fold corn husk in half, fold one more time to keep the dough from falling out. Then fold the top and bottom of the husk and tie the tamale with a corn string (use one corn husk to make strings). Repeat the process. I made my tamales small. I also did not use all the filling. Steam tamales for 45 minutes. Serve with sour cream and salsa.

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