Tamales (or tamal, spanish singular) have been served for HUNDREDS of years in Mexico. Mesoamerican families served this “wrapped food” to the Spaniards during their visits to Mexico. Corn played an important role in the Mayan religious culture, so consequently eating corn tamales was a sacred part of their lives.
On this island, tamales are made of masa harina, ground corn flour, that is mixed with lard, oil or water to make a dough. They are typically topped or stuffed with pork or an achiote based chicken, that has a natural red color and offering a smoky, peppery taste, then wrapped in a banana or plantain leaf. These local tamales are often referred to as “pibs” and are quite large and usually square. They are placed in a TAMALERA, large steamer, and steamed for 1-2 hours.
In Mexican culture, tamales are eaten daily and for special occasions. As an example, locals celebrate King’s Day (Dia de Reyes) on January 6th, twelve days after Christmas. On that day, the famous sweet cake, Rosca de Reyes, or Rosca, is served. Inside the cake, a tiny plastic doll has been placed to represent the baby Jesus. Whoever gets the slice with the trinket, must supply TAMALES for that same group on February 2nd, Dia de la Canderlaria (Candlemas party), in observance of when Mary would have traditionally taken baby Jesus to the Temple for the first time.
Tamales play a huge role as a popular street food! Thirty pesos and you’ve got a meal to go, the ultimate fast food here, but certainly not fast to prepare! Some tamales are served with salsa on the side, others plain and simple. These are not your Tex-Mex tamales, Hallelujah! Locals and tourists alike, gather around the tamale food carts in the early evening for a quick bite and a bit of a chat.
A SIMPLE local treat.