It’s a culinary explosion on the eastside: tacos, burgers, candy, bread, tamales, you-name-it-we-make-it. We can’t help it: the cooks from all those restaurants on the westside live on the eastside! We have food everywhere at home, on the corner ready for a bite or at a little restaurant serving the finest foods in L.A.
Right now I’m on a Tamale binge. Tamales, tamales and tamales! There are so many kinds that if I give you a rundown I’ll sound like Bubba from Forrest Gump when he talks about shrimp. It doesn’t have to be the holidays for us to be wrapping and unwrapping these delicious treats. We do it for all occasions, just like mariachi music. Sisters, mothers, daughters, even fathers and sons are always rolling up the masa, filling it with meats, cheese, beans or vegetables. Tamale making is where the good gossip is shared, along with great tales of the old country. It’s a learning experience: you learn about life, love, health, food, and who is dating who in the barrio. Tamales originated in Mesoamerica between 5000 and 8000 BC, and nowadays they’re eaten all over the world, sold as a street snack for any meal of the day. There are hundreds of regional variations (including sweet dessert tamales) and they’re starting to spread worldwide.
Personally, I think the whole wrapping and unwrapping technique is cool. It’s different, it’s an experience on it’s own: opening up the corn leaves and having the steam flow into your nostrils, filling up your body, getting you ready for the bite. My favorite are Queso con Rajas. Jalapeño Rajas with some green salsa on the side. Maybe a Champurado or a nice Mexican Coke on the side and I’m set to go.
Great Spots on the Eastside for Tamales:
- La India Tamales – 1142 S. Indiana Ave
- La Mascota Bakery – 2715 Whittier Blvd
- Tamales Lilianas’ – 3448 E. 1st Street
- Guisados – 2100 Cesar Chavez Ave
- Los Cinco Puntos – 3300 Cesar Chavez Ave
Header photo by Fred Rockwood, used under a Creative Commons license.