Search
Tolovana Resort – June 15 to July 15 #1
Vancouver, WA – June 2017

In San Antonio, it’s tamales, tamales, tamales

Mixing Tamale in big, blue bowl on red tableWe spent the morning learning how to make tamales — and the afternoon happily eating them them at the Annual Tamales! Holiday Festival.

A recent visit to the colorful city of San Antonio, Texas, included an expert lesson in tamale preparation followed by an afternoon visit to one of the town’s favorite annual gatherings: The Tamales! Holiday Festival held at the site of the former Pearl Brewery. This lively outdoor event brings together vendors of all stripes for the dining pleasure of all.

An art museum taught us the art of making tamales.

We started our day at the Witte Museum where our group took part in La Tamalada: The Art of Tamale Making where we learned some tamale history. These delicacies were served in Mexico in the 1550s and, these days, they’re seasonal holiday fare. Turns out everyone has their own way of making them — and their own favorite source.

The author hones her tamale making skills with a master tamale maker.

The author hones her tamale making skills with a master tamale maker.

For the uninitiated like me, a tamale is a made of various fillings steamed or boiled in a leaf or corn wrapper. The process starts with a corn dough or masa, which we mixed with lard using our hands. I generously seasoned mine with cumin, salt, chili powder and water from cooking dried chili pods, giving it a nice pungent depth. Next, we took cooked beans and seasoned them similarly, also adding the cooked pods, which had mellowed into themselves with a pungent but not overly spicy richness.

Fragrant, steeped chili pods provided juice to add flavor to our masa or corn dough.

Fragrant, steeped chili pods provided juice to add flavor to the masa or corn dough.

Once our fillings were set, our teacher came by with soaked corn husks in which we’d wrap our fillings. She expertly guided us in how to put everything together, which began with slathering the masa on the inside of the husk, leaving some room at each end. We added the beans and then rolled them into neat little packages we tied together with a corn husk strip.

Off they went for steaming and when they came back, we opened them (no, you don’t eat the wrapper – something I didn’t realize the first time I was faced with a tamale!) to find they’re turned into warming, spicy, comforting creations.

When working on my masa and beans, I kept adding more salt and spices to the point where I thought I’d overdone it, but once my tamales were steamed, they were flavorful and spiced just right, so over seasoning turned out to be a good idea. I ate a few and brought some home for later.

After careful wrapping, the author’s well-spiced tamales came out of the steamer.

After careful wrapping, the author’s well-spiced tamales came out of the steamer.

The Tamales! Holiday Festival showed us how the pros do it.

Next, our group hit the festival where more than 35 vendors–from regional home cooks and culinary students to local restaurants and accomplished chefs–were selling their individual takes on tamales. Some tamales were wrapped in banana leaves, others in corn. Some, like the ones we’d made earlier, were filled with beans, others were filled with chicken mole, pork or various blends of vegetables.

Opening the corn husk released the combined scents of chili pods, corn, cumin and more.

Opening the corn husk released the combined scents of chili pods, corn, cumin
and more.

Lines were long at some booths and short at others, but to me, they were all delicious. Some tamales sold for a buck and others went as high as $4.00. There were also some soups and a few fried dough desserts to round out the experience. Live music, children’s activities and a huge variety of affordable food made it a great afternoon. — story and photos by Leslie Long, RFT Contributor

Leslie Long

 

visitsanantonio.com 1-800-447-3372



Leslie Long

Leslie Long is a New York-based travel and lifestyle writer and photographer with a love of authentic places off the tourist track. She and her family often cross many state lines and travel far and wide in search of fabulous food and indigenous restaurants. She enjoys baking pies, growing as many herbs and vegetables as she can in containers ,and the constant pursuit of things that are wonderful and new. leslielongportfolio.com