Written by: Rachel Garcia Indulge in the aromas and embrace cultural experiences as you cook tamales for National Tamale Day.
Each year, on March 23rd, there is one day – National Tamale Day – that brings awareness to tamales and tasting tamales. Tamales are good stuff worth celebrating. Here is how we suggest you do this.
#1: Two Weeks Before First, determine if you are going to eat out, take out or eat in.
Eating out: Do an online search for locations that celebrate or serve specials in honor of National Tamale Day. Determine your budget, who is joining and what time you plan to go.
Taking out: Locations that serve Mexican or Latin dishes may offer takeaway tamales. Some grocery stores stock tamales along with local Latin or Mexican markets. If time and budget is limited, this option may be ideal.
Eating in: Find recipes on the Internet or in cookbooks that align with your kitchen skills and capabilities. Keep your options open beyond the traditional Mexican tamale. There is a wide-variety of tamale types and recipes from different Latin American cultures. Narrow down your recipe selections to the one you feel will make your tamale experience be OMG: “Oh Masa Good”.
If eating in, this checklist will help.
#2: One Week Before After you select the tamale recipe (or recipes), think about how many you will make. Create a shopping list and review the items you need to pick up and where to find them.
Some ingredients or materials might require a little exploration to track them down – but that’s the fun part of this experience! Discovering unique markets with foods you may never knew existed. Example: If you are making banana-leaf wrapped tamales like we do at Leafy Tamale, you will need to search online or go to the nearest Asian or Mexican market. Locations like H-Mart might provide a good solution for banana leaves.
If your area limits access to wrappings for your tamale, use aluminum foil instead. Cut the aluminum foil into 9 – 12 inch squares and fold around the masa and ingredients, Bringing all sides together to form an enclosed wrap. Place your aluminum packets in boiling water until the masa cooks thoroughly inside.
After finding your delicious tamale ingredients, refrigerate, freeze or store everything you need for prepping and cooking. Keeping organized in the tamale making process is key.
#3: Day Before Review your recipe again and remind yourself what ingredients you have. Note the items missing.
Most food prep is easy to do in advance. Bell peppers, onions, carrots or any similar produce keep well if prepped ahead of time. Promptly refrigerate any chopped produce.
Foods that brown after cutting or when exposed to air (potatoes, avocado, pre-prepared masa, etc.) should be prepped when the actual cooking begins. This will maintain produce freshness. If you prefer to prep everything in advance for better time management, read about how to prevent browning to produce and proceed with care.
#4: March 23rd Morning Chilled foods (sauces, salsas, marinades, toppings, etc.) should be made early in the day. Store these items in the refrigerator until you’re ready to tamale taste.
#5: March 23rd Afternoon Tell your family and friends about National Tamale Day. Share how you plan to celebrate this day. By sparking a little interest, you can even encourage involvement in future tamale events.
In Latin America and Mexican households, children often eat tamales as part of their culture and tradition. Yes, tamales are a kid-friendly meal! Still, if your kids are first-time tamale tasters, incorporate fun activities and think of ways to excite them for an OMG: “Oh Masa Good” experience.
Draw tamales: Have kids draw what they think tamales look like before making them. Compare the actual tamales served to what they drew for fun.
Discuss culture: Talk about what countries commonly make tamales, the different tamale types and how people act and look from those countries.
Tamale helpers: Have kids participate in the tamale making process. They can even add their own ingredients. Plan accordingly for masa messes.
#6: March 23rd Evening It’s go time! Play some Latin or Mexican music, gather your ingredients and start tamale making. Indulge in the aromas and embrace cultural experiences as you prep and cook. Consider setting your table to the cultural theme from where your tamales originate.
Often overlooked in favor of Margaritas, tamales pair well with wine too. Here are suggestions to pair with your tamales: Pinot Noirs, Rieslings, Chiantis and Chilean Reds.
The tamale’s ingredients will dictate ideal pairings.
#7: Day After You’re bound to have leftovers. Not because of the lack of tamale tasting that happened the night before but because masa gives quantity and re-purpose options.
Leftover tamales: If you have fully made tamales left over, place them in a freezer-safe container or bag, label with the date and store away for a future tamale tasting opportunities. Freeze the sauces and salsas too.
Leafy Tamale stumbled across a tasty tamale type with our leftovers: The breakfast tamale. Masa and fried eggs go well together. Grab a couple eggs, fry them to your liking and place them overtop of the re-heated tamale. Add a little sauce and now you have a quick and tasty breakfast option.
Re-purposed masa: Explore ways to re-purpose your prepped masa. Masa dough keeps for up to three days when covered and refrigerated. If you have packaged masa harina leftover, search online for options like masa harina buttermilk pancakes or even meatloaf to help future meal planning.
Whatever you choose to do on National Tamale Day (March 23rd), eat good stuff, be safe and have a little fun.