We want to make you moan, “OMG.” No, not in a paperback romance way, but in a new OMG way: “Oh Masa Good.” Masa is that creamy goodness used in Mexican, Latin and Southwest dishes. It’s what keeps your tamale from bursting everywhere or makes the hundreds of tortillas stocked on grocery store shelves.
The taste immediately makes you think of sun-drenched countries south of the border. You’ve probably licked it off your fingers and chased the last bite around your plate.
Or maybe you’ve encountered a different lip-smacking experience, thinking OMB (“Oh Masa Bad”). Tell me if this is familiar: You chew through a typical Mexican tamale with dry masa surrounded by a rough cornhusk and reach for a drink right away.
If that’s the case, let’s get more acquainted with masa and help you achieve an OMG moment.
Masa is dough made from corn treated by an ancient Mayan secret called “nixtamalization.” In short, this secret removes the outer hull of the corn kernel by drying the corn, soaking and boiling it in a mixture of water, lime and wood ash.
Through this process, the corn’s outer hull and internal cell walls are softened. Suddenly the corn binds together in a dough, making its nutrients more easily absorbed by your body.
Let’s give some OMG props to the Mayans for this – they knew what they were doing.
Choose your own destiny
Masa has two destinies. One path leads to masa harina (flour masa) and the other to masa de maiz (corn masa). The food you make depends on the type of masa you use.
Like any good OMG moment, masa can get complicated if it’s unfamiliar to you. Let’s focus on corn masa and how to get an OMG when it comes to tamales.
When making tamales with corn masa, you have two choices:
We recommend grabbing your sunglasses and driving to a spot that sells prepared masa for tamales. The thickness and texture will really make you gasp OMG, and the ingredient hunt is worth it.
OMG is getting real
Now that you are on your way to making OMG, think about what you can expect from masa and how to kick it up a notch!
Traditionally, lard is added into the masa for a creamier consistency and more authentic taste.
Get creative and replace the lard with broth, butter or anything else that sparks your imagination. Similar to cookie or pizza dough, this balance is about the ratios. As you experiment or include ingredients, consider how well these play together.
At Leafy Tamale, we’ve had years of burnt masa, runny masa, sticky masa and OMB happening in our kitchen. We’ve thrown out batches of masa that were too dry or lumpy. When more than 100 years is spent crafting the right type of masa awesomeness, our labor of love gets real.
Like any good OMG moment, experimenting and practicing is the secret.
Now you’re cooking with masa
Making masa in a traditional or creative way causes a little bit of guess work. You’ll read tons of masa blogs and recipes online outlining the “how much” for tamale making.
We’ll skip the boring details. Use the recipes you find as a guide but don’t let them restrict your masa quest. Preventing an OMB - that dry and sauce-thirsty masa - for your tamales is the point.
Whatever recipe you follow, assess the masa state before mixing, wrapping or heating it. If your masa tastes dry and heavy, the tamale will too. If masa is runny as you scoop, it’s too wet and won’t hold the flavors right. If there are lumps, the masa will compete with the tamale ingredients in taste (and not in a good way).
Aim for a balanced wet: masa that holds its form on the spoon and slightly drips. When scooped from the spoon to a surface or husk, it should easily spread like whipped butter.
If you can achieve this consistency, prepare for an oncoming OMG moment.
More than meets your mouth
Masa has a way of bringing tradition to life in your home and is a vital difference maker in tamales. Its magic goes beyond corn flour.
When treated as a quest to perfection, you can impress family and friends with your creations. For Leafy Tamale, masa is the backbone of our tamales. It frames our tamale creations, allowing you to unwrap Costa Rican culture in your home.
Masa is more than packaged powder sold in stores or the dry paste smothered under heavy sauce in restaurants. Get more acquainted with what you can do with masa, cultivate your ideas and go after that OMG moment.
Visit Leafy Tamale to find out why we can’t stop saying OMG.