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Pineapple tamales!

Ruth Lafler | Sep 15, 200107:43 PM

After continuing to explore new taco trucks on Oakland's International Ave. (reported separately) I went back to El Ojo des Aguas (International Market, 3800 block) to see if I could decipher more of their menu and get some of their yummy strawberry cream agua fresca.

My intentions were sidetacked by a several hand-written signs offering what appeared to be specials of the day.

Although many of the trucks are staffed by young men who speak English, the attractive 30something woman who takes the orders here speaks roughly as much (or rather, as little) English as I speak Spanish, which makes asking questions challenging.

The other patrons there when I arrived were also non-Spanish speaking, although they were quick to sing the praises of this truck as "the best in Oakland" (one, clearly a chowhound, claimed to have tried "every taco truck in East Oakland").

Overhearing me saying that I thought "birria" meant "goat" the proprietress solved the language problems by grabbing a plastic spoon and handing me a sample of what was indeed stewed goat. Then she poured me a salsa cup of the "atole calientitos" (sp?), which turned out to be an incredibly delicious, sightly thickened, Mexican hot chocolate drink.

After failing to determine what a couple of other signs meant, I decided to get a tamale to go with that irresistible chocolate. She and I went back and forth with "sucre" or "carne" until she finally managed to convey they had both pork and pineapple tamales. Pineapple! I just had to have one!

Verdict: It appeared that rather than filled, the masa is actually mixed with pureed pineapple, giving it a coarser, fluffier texture and a golden color. The pineapple flavor is descernible but not pronounced -- it seems to be intended not as the dominent flavor, but to sweeten and enhance the corn flavor of the masa as well. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for the sign "Ricos tamales Y atole calientitos" in the future.

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