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Tamales Alberto Echo Park

lil mikey | Jul 11, 200504:56 PM

We went to the Lotus Festival (food not that good) yesterday, and while circling looking for parking I noticed Alberto’s Tamales on Temple between Dawson and Glendale. It’s about a block from the Echo Park lake.

So today, I decided to go there for lunch.

First, it’s take-out only. I noticed a room with a table and some chairs, but the guy there (Alberto?) said that’s only open on the weekends.

On the board outside the window were about 8 different kinds of tamales, and some drinks. I asked about the Oaxaceña tamales, which were $12 for 20 tamales. He said that was only on the weekends. So I asked what he had. He pulled the substantial lid from the big pot and said today they had chicken, beef, pork, cheese and pineapple.

“Okay, gimme 2 chicken and 2 pork.”

He wrapped ‘em up in foil, then a plastic bag, and pronounced $4.40. I paid and off I went to sit by the Echo Park lake.

I rushed over to the lake, parked the car in the shade and made my way to a park bench looking out over the lake.

I snuck a glance to my right, then my left, then, very slowly, I slid my hand into the plastic bag and into the foil. I could feel the heat of the still steaming corn husks. I felt around, and then with one hand only, I carefully unwrapped its outer husk. Then I slowly slid a finger along the hot, smooth, slippery tamale, removing a portion of the inner husk. At this point I stopped to let things cool down a bit.

After a few moments (the tension was too great), I spread the foil wide open, grabbed the partially denuded tamale and slurped my first bite. The cornmeal was fresh and soft. It was firm enough to hold its shape, but tender and sweet. Mmmmm.

As I got into the meat, I realized it was a chicken tamale (you can’t tell what kind they are from the outside). It had a nice red sauce that was not too spicy, but had a mild little kick to it. And the chicken was tender and stringy, like it had been stewing for hours before he made the tamale.

But I quickly remembered why people put the tamales on plates and eat them with a fork. They are quite messy. What with the natural oils of the ingredients, and the tenderness of the coating, you really have to be careful eating them. To top it off, the filling was very hot, so I was contorted to the side on the park bench trying not to spill anything on my shirt.

I loved it, but now I had a dilemma. Should I eat another one right then and there, or should I take them home. I sat back on the bench and enjoyed the view of the lake. Then, all caution was thrown to the wind. I dove a hand back into the bag, into the foil, into the outer husk, into the inner husk, and ouch. It was too hot. So I waited a little bit, picked it up and…jackpot. This one was pork.

It was a little firmer than the chicken, and had a much more spicy green sauce. I had so much anticipation that I gobbled it down in what must have been 15-20 seconds. And now I had tamale on my hands, my face, my shirt, my shorts, and of course the bag holding the tamales had oils and pieces of tamale on it. In summary, I was a mess.

It was at this point that a woman and her three kids walked by, and I must have been quite a sight, what with all the mess and all. A little boy came over close to me to see what I was doing, and decided it best to be on his way.

So I gathered my things, brushed the tamale off as best I could and headed for the car. Obviously I needed more privacy for my tamale fest.

Upon arriving home, I had the other two tamales. One was chicken, but oddly it was not like the other chicken tamale. This one had the green sauce that was on the pork tamale I had earlier. And the chicken was not nearly as tender as the first tamale.

The fourth tamale was not pork, but rather beef, and it had a nice red sauce. The beef was the firmest of the meats, but good nonetheless.

Overall, an embarrassing, but tasty experience, and I strongly recommend it.

Tamales Alberto
1644 West Temple (near Glendale Blvd.)
Echo Park
(213) 484-4485

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