Tamales For Christmas

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays in Costa Rica. We enjoy the company of the family and friends , we make parties, great food and delicious “tamales”.

Tamal is a typical Central American dish made of ground up corn, vegetables and meat. Every country prepares their tamales in a slightly different manner: in Mexico, for example, tamales are wrapped in corn husks and boiled. On Costa Rica, however, locals often wrap tamales in hojas de banano (banana leaves) or hojas de platano(plantain leaves).

Make tamales is tradition that involve all the family, neighbors, friends, etc. We can eat tamales whole the complete month and we never get tired. They are eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner and they are absolutely fundamental for coffee break time. We sent them  to family, friends and neighbors as a sign of friendship and love.

With Beer also!! Why not?

Here is How my family make Tamales

The Ingredients

  • 2 pounds maize (corn flour)
  • 2 pounds pork
  • 2 pounds bacon
  • 2 cups cooked, seasoned rice that is cooked with minced onion, diced sweet pepper, garlic and salt.
  • several carrots
  • a few potatoes in slices
  • sweet peppers
  • canned peas
  • salt
  • pork lard or vegetable oil (the first is preferred for taste)
  • Salsa Lizano Sauce. (A mild sauce combinet with herb and condiments)*Optional for any other that is not A Costa Rican

The Preparation

Soak the flour in water and cook it with a little salt one day before making the tamales. Wash it thoroughly and change the water. Let it stand overnight. The next day, knead it into dough.

Boil the carrots, potatoes and meat in separate pots, seasoning with black pepper, cumin, coriander and salt.

Once this is done add the water from the meat you just cooked to the dough until you get an intermediate consistency. Also add some salt , lizano sauce  and the potatoes, previously mashed or pureed in a blender.

Very important is to add to the dough the pork lard to get more flavor, just a litle bit.The more “traditional” tamale usually is laden with pork fat. One of the reasons so many people get “fat” by eating a few too many over the season 🙂

Take the plantain leaves (you can substitute banana leaves) and pass them by fire to pre-smoked and pre-burned .It It is to make the leave strong and do not crack easily. From November you can buy the leaves in the market  in packages by the kilo, pre-smoked and pre-burned.

Foto Meylin Aguilera

Wash the plantain leaves.  Cut them into 16 by 14 inch pieces. Remove the veins. On each piece place two tablespoonfuls of dough. On top of the dough place a tablespoonful of rice, a piece of meat,  a slice or two of carrots, some peas, and a strip of sweet pepper.

Making Tamalse is a family tradition: Tamalada
Making Tamales is a family tradition: Tamalada

Fold the leaf into a rectangular shape, making sure no part of the tamal is exposed. Tie the bundle carefully and securely with string.

The rest is easy. Just place them in salted, boiling water for about one hour. Unwrap them so you can get to one of the most typical and delightful tastes of Costa Rica. Tamales are usually tied together to create a piña, or pair, and are then boiled.

They’re simply delicious

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