Tamale is originally a Mesoamerican dish that originated during the Maya civilization. Now this recipe is more popularly associated with the Mexican cuisine, in which a filling using masa (cornmeal flour) and pork is prepared to be wrapped in corn husks.
The tamales are then steamed in a streamer for more than 1 hour and served with a chili sauce. You may also use chicken or beef instead of the pork. The preparation may be a bit tricky at the first, but then you will be able to master it within a couple of days after practicing a few times.
Difficulty level: Easy
Servings per recipe: 22-24 tamales
Time required for preparation: 1 hour
Time required for cooking: 4-5 hours
1 8-inch deep steamer
1 large pot
1 stirring spoon
1 large bowl
1 damp cotton towel
1 large saucepan
2 pounds of pork butt or pork shoulder (boneless)
5-6 dried corn husks
1 cup + ½ cup of low-sodium chicken stock
1/4th teaspoon of chicken base
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
5 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tablespoons of chili powder
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/4th cup of water
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4th teaspoon of sugar
A dash of ground cinnamon
For the Masa Dough
1 cup + ½ cup of masa (cornmeal flour)
½ teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of salt
½ cup of water
1/4th cup of vegetable or corn oil
For the Sauce
8-10 ancho chilies
2 tablespoons of pork lard
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
Salt, to taste
½ teaspoon of cumin powder
1 cup of boiling water
Method of Cooking
1. Place a large pot on the stove and turn on the knob to light up the flame. Set the flame on high and then pour the chicken stock into the pot. Add the chili powder, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, salt, 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper, chicken base, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, ground cinnamon and sugar to the chicken stock.
Stir the mixture nicely to combine everything and then bring it to a boil. While the liquid mixture is coming to a boil, cut up the pork into small bite sized chunks, while trying to eliminate as much fat from the meat as possible.
2. Once done, add the pork pieces to the boiling mixture and stir around. Reduce the heat to medium low and cover up the pot with a lid. Let the pork simmer for 2- 2 ½ hours or until it becomes fork tender. While the pork is cooking, take a large saucepan and fill it up with hot water. Then take the corn husk bundles and soak them in the hot water for 30-40 minutes or until they become pliable and soft.
3. Next, check the pork in the pot. If it is cooked, dissolve the flour in the water and then add the slurry to the broth in the pot to thicken it up. Stir the mixture continuously while adding the flour thickener to avoid getting any lumps. Once added, continue to cook the pork on high heat for 5 minutes more and then turn off the flame.
4. Next to prepare the masa, take a large mixing bowl and combine the masa (cornmeal flour), salt and the garlic powder in it. Stir all the dry ingredients to combine them and then add the oil to the dry ingredients. Stir the ingredients while adding the oil to moisten the dry ingredients.
Once you get a moist and lumpy mixture, add-in the water and combine with the dry mixture. Continue kneading the mixture until you get soft dough and then knead the dough until it becomes non-sticky.
5. Once the masa is prepared, take out the softened corn husk bundles from the saucepan and separate the corn husks by pulling them gently with your fingers. Be careful not to tear the corn husks while separating them. Then take a handful of the prepared masa dough and press it onto one of the corn husks.
Top the masa dough with 4-6 cubes of pork and then fold the corn husk over the filling to convert it into a roll. Then pull the back portion of the husk and fold it over the filled part to secure the filling inside. You may use two corn husks if your corn husks are too thin, but make sure that the filling is completely wrapped up in the corn husk.
6. If you face problem while folding the back portion of the corn husk, tie that part with a string or thin strip of corn husk. Prepare all the tamales in the same manner and then line the base of the steamer with some of the left over corn husks.
Then place the tamales in the steamer by keeping them upright, with the open ends of the tamales facing the top of the steamer. Place a damp cotton cloth over the tamales to cook them properly and to prevent them from burning. Now pour some water in the base of the steamer, but make sure it doesn’t touch the tamales.
Put the lid on the steamer to prevent the steam from escaping. Place the steamer on the stove and light up the flame. Let the tamales steam for 1 ½ hour.
7. While the tamales are cooking, place a saucepan on medium heat and fill it up with 3 cups of water. Let the water come to a boil and then put the ancho chilies in it. Boil the chilies for 3-4 minutes or until they turn soft. Once done, spoon out the chilies and transfer them to a blender with 1 cup of the cooking liquid in which the chilies are boiled.
You may take out the seeds from the chilies if you don’t like too much spicy food. Then add the garlic powder, salt and the cumin powder to the chilies and blend them all together to get a fine puree.
8. Once done, add some lard to the saucepan and then add the chili puree to it. Stir and cook the chili puree on low heat for 10-15 minutes. Once the tamales are done cooking, take them out of the steamer with the help of a tong and then cut the knots to untie them.
Then slowly roll out the corn husks to unwrap the tamales. If they are still sticking to the corn husks, place them back in the streamer and steam them for some more minutes before serving them with the prepared chili sauce.
1. Tamales can be refrigerated in plastic zip-lock bags for as long as 1 week.
2. You can cook the tamales a day after preparing the pork but if you are too excited, you can prepare them immediately.