WE all love a homemade tamale, most of the time we make them during the Christmas holiday. Making them, buying them, eating way more of them than is probably allowed. We know that several countries make these delectable, packaged meals, but what exactly are the differences among them? HipLatina decided to unwrap (see what we did there?) the mystery and detail how six Latin American countries paises make their tamales.
Modern Mexican tamales are made starting with masa/masa mix and lard. The masa is usually filled with chicken or pork in mole or salsa verde, and wrapped in corn husks. In some tropical places in Mexico, plantain or banana leaves are used. These tamales can be up to 15” in size. Other varieties, including sweet tamales, are also made in Mexico.
Known as nacatamales, Nicaraguan tamales are made starting with nixtamalized corn masa, lard, achiote and salt. The filling includes tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, achiote-seasoned pork, olives, onions, chile congo, and and spearmint sprigs. This is all wrapped up in a plantain leaves.
Colombians also wrap their tamales in plantain leaves. These tamales are not spicy, are much larger than Mexican tamales (as are other tamales wrapped in plantain leaves), and are more moist. The masa is a bright yellow, and contains ingredients such as chicken or pork, carrot, olives, and potatoes. There are different varieties of tamales in Colombia, according to region.
Guatemala has hundreds of different types of tamales. With tamales colorados, they are wrapped in plantain leaves and stuffed with chicken or pork, and additional ingredients, such as bell peppers, capers, raisins, and olives. A red tomato sauce is used. There are also tamales dulces.
Costa Rica’s tamales also vary by region, and time of year. The Christmas variety includes rice, peas, potatoes, and other ingredients, and is wrapped up in a plantain leaf. The Costa Ricans eat tamales with a sweet, spicy, and tangy sauce called Salsa Lizano.
Cuban tamales are much smaller than Mexican tamales. They are made with a corn masa, and are filled with small pieces of pork, garlic, tomato paste, and other ingredients. The meat is mixed in with the masa, instead of being added in as a filling. Cubans also make tamal al casuela, which is like a tamal casserole with no husk.