Tamales are a Christmas tradition across Latin America. In Guatemala, says rworange, tamales negras are the Christmas specialty, made with a chocolate-based sauce with dried plums, raisins, and nuts. JungMann is making Filipino tamales for Christmas. “I am making two rice flour doughs: one using toasted rice, the other plain. Between those two layers, there will be chunks of chicken and pork, chopped shrimp, chorizo, and salted duck eggs. I may also try a red curry duck filling which, though nontraditional, seems like it would go well with the rice dough,” he says. “Filipino tamales are fiesta fare, not strictly for Christmas, though they are becoming a rarer treat. I’ve never seen them commercially available stateside.”
Quimbombo loves tamales de puerco (pork tamales) from Cuba. “Delicious, but the process of grinding the corn then straining them and wrapping the masa in the corn husks is tedious and a pain. It could take hours with one person doing it,” says Quimbombo. “So we buy the frozen tamales from Goya and serve them at Christmas as a side along with yuca and boniato [Cuban sweet potato].”
“I just recently had my first hallacas, the Venezuelan holiday tamale with beef, pork and chicken plus green olives, capers, and raisins,” says brucesw. “I went back the next day and bought several to freeze.”
“There was a little Guyanese grocery in South Miami that took orders for them around Christmas time and they were so savory and spicy, with beef, pork, and always with raisins. Your post reminded me of them,” says Duppie.
If you want to try your hand at making your own, here’s CHOW’s guide to Tamales for the Holidays.