Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tamale Lady

I love street tamales. From the Baja, to San Fransico, Southern California, Salt Lake, even Chicago, I am a veteran of these warm, steamy bundles of happiness. In the Italian Market, I have long passed by the little old tamale lady, and thought about how, "next time, I will try them out." It has all the makings of magic: the little (seemingly) experienced Hispanic woman, a little corner with a cooler and cart full of paper plates etc. However, this was a tamale like nothing I have ever seen.

I ordered one pork, and one chicken. The pork was the first player up to bat. The first thing I noticed about the tamale was huge. It was the size of a giant burrito. I was really quite surprised. The second thing I noticed was...a strange drizzle of hot sauce down the middle. This was okay by me as I love hot sauce. The third thing I noticed was...a large bone in the first fork full. The pork was a strange pink color, and certainly not from being smoked. There was a ton of masa and a small amount of meat. Which wasn't a problem, because it was pretty gross. And when I say pretty gross, I mean I took one bite, out of shear journalistic integrity (as though I have any), in order give a real review of the tamale. It was not good. To put it lightly. And the weird large bone was staring back the whole time. I have never had a tamale this weird/gross. Hopefully the chicken one would be better, right?

How wrong was I? The chicken tamale was almost a joke. A pull of the wet husk wrapper, revealed a wet tamale. Ok, no big deal. Having learned my lesson on the last one, an exploratory poke for bones revealed...

A chicken drumstick. Unseasoned, merely boiled and covered in masa. So gross. It was wet and gray. I don't even know who would eat it. I have never even seen such a thing, even in Mexico. I have yet to find a good tamale in Philly, and the hunt continues. So next time you hear the little old lady calling out "tamale" in the Italian market, avoid this siren like you would some weird piece of meat, because that's all you'd have to look forward to.


Anonymous said...

Have your had La Lupe's tamales? Their service and pretty much the rest of their food is terrible, but was highly impressed with their chicken ones. We even ate the last 2 of our huge order for breakfast the next morn :)

hawk krall said...

What a bummer when something that should be mind-blowingly authentic ends up sucking!

Anonymous said...

Just ran across your post (as a newbie to Philly from LA, I'm also looking for good tamales!). From the looks of your pictures, you may have found Salvadoran-style tamales which are wet and wrapped in banana leaves. If you're expecting Mexican-style, these can be off-putting (and the weird bone in yours certainly doesn't help!). But to to be fair to Salvadoran cuisine, when done right they are tasty, just different. :)

Ramon Campacho said...

What in the flying fuck is this shit?! GOOD GRIEF! Those tamales bring me to tears. What a crying shame. An affliction has taken this woman. Tell unto this woman, Quiero hablar contigo. Una abeja me picó. Me duele el estomago. Su tamal es una abeja. Mirame a los ojos. Hoy es un dia hermoso.

John Ihlenfeldt said...

There's a good tamales cart in university city on 38th st, between spruce and Baltimore. They have banana leaf and corn husk tamales. They are the size of a burrito and really tasty too. The banana leaf ones have a bone, but it adds flavor to the masa and keeps it moist. In the corn husk, my favorite was the chicken mole. They do a good chorizo and egg on tortillas too

DEV NSF said...

^^Cosign....just tried 38th and Spruce out. Delicious! Had the Chicken Mole. Been getting breakfast tortillas here too, real good...every time I would go back to try a tamale they'd be sold out. Great service too!

Kiya Ramos said...

Those are Central American Tamales made in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. I prefer them to Mexican tamales. They do have more masa however they don't have bones and definitely not a whole drumstick! That is shocking. They should be flavorful, thick, and some people also put potatoes and or rice in them. When made correctly they are delectable. My mother in law is Salvadoran, I wish you could have a good one, sorry.

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