Mexican Tamales

The tamal is recorded at least as far back as 5000 BC. Tamales may have evolved from other nixtamal-based items, such as tortillas, out of the need for soldiers and warriors to have access to pre-perared food in the many wars between between pre-hispanic peoples.

Tamales are essentially corn dumplings, filled with meat, fish, vegetables, even insects or their eggs, wrapped in corn husks, or in more tropical regions plantain or avocado leaves, then cooked in a variety of ways. There are savoury and sweet tamales, filled and unfilled (blind), open (unwarapped) and closed, steamed, boiled, roasted, fried, even fermented tamales. the range is potentially endless

Tamales most likely originated in modern-day Mexical and Guatemala, quickly spreading to all of central and south America. The main difference between pre-hispanic and modern-day tamales is the current use of pork or vegetable shortening.

Nowdays tamales are prepared in quantity for special occasions including public holidays and any large family-and-frined get-together. In Mexico they are eaten at breakfast from street sellers in practically every corner of large towns and cities. They are traditionally accompanied by the corn-based prehispanic drink atole.

Many varieties exist both within and beyond Mexico under different names including paches, chuchitos, nacatamal, corunda, zacahul, hallaca and more.

So let’s get cooking, starting from the basic tamal dough. See you in the next post


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