This weekend, downtown LA hosted the first annual International Tamale Festival. Tamales originated over 5000 years ago as warrior food, easily portable nourishment. Today in the U.S., due to the effort that goes into making them, tamales are usually associated with the Christmas holidays. Tamale vendors can be found all over Los Angeles--from the woman at my bus stop who sells them out of a cooler in a shopping cart, to Mama's Hot Tamales in MacArthur Park, which features tamales from all over Latin America and is run as a community redevelopment program, to the "Euro-Mex" Corn Maiden Tamale stands found at many Farmer's Markets around town.
J. and I headed to the festival yesterday and sampled three different types of tamales.
First, we tried Heavenly Tamales, made by a Catholic church in El Sereno. They had beef tamales only, served with homemade salsa. The masa part of the tamales was fairly dry, though the meat was succulent. The salsa was spicy and added a nice punch to the tamale.
Next up was Tamales Alberto, run by the Tamale Queen. Here we tried the pork tamale with red sauce. I found both the masa and the meat very dry in this one. J. disagreed on the pork--he thought it was just right.
Finally, we succumbed to Mom's Tamales, with the longest line of the festival. It was worth the wait--the tamales here were indeed the best of the bunch. We ordered the chicken mole; the masa was the freshest we'd tasted and the depth of the reddish-brown mole ensured the meat was moist. Mom's Tamales has a storefront in Lincoln Heights that we'll have to check out.
3328 Pasadena Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90031