Especially now, there is no other food that takes me back to the happy childhood days of getting ready for Christmas. There would be huge pots in my family’s kitchen with red chile sauce in one and stewed pork meat in the other. On the table, a massive mound of redmasa, ready for spreading. The corn husk leaves would soak in hot water with an upside down molcajete weighing them down so they would get soft and pliable for spreading the masa. Then we got to the work of assembly – spreading, filling, turning them upside down to steam. It was messy work. There was a big crew of us working while bits of sauce, lard and masa splattered all over because we worked so fast.
So when I moved to DC I tried to recreate this cooking experience with my own little family and friends. I was so naïve. First, I invited a bunch of friends to a “tamalada.” I did a lot of the prep work, including making the filling and laying out seasoned masa for my friends to spread out. What happened instead is my girlfriends stood around the table drinking wine and staring at the masa, unsure of what to do next and not really interested much except for the eating part. FAIL
Another time I tried to make them on my own. EPIC FAIL
Ever since, I have been on the search for good tamales that I can buy. In DC. That are Mexican. And good. And not too big. And not dry, too expensive or bland.
Most folks who grew up eating tamales here are headed back home for Christmas – yay for you because you will get the real deal. But if you are staying local like me and need a Christmas fix, here are my top recommendations for finding Mexican tamales in DC:
- Call the Mexican Cowboy. Ofelio is well known to urban DC foodies. You just call him and he comes to the rescue with pork, chicken, sweet or vegan tamales. They come with red mole sauce or green chile sauce inside. Both flavors are amazing. The mole sauce is deep and slightly sweet. The green sauce is kind of smoky and tangy and just a little spicy. There is no delivery fee but you must be in downtown or Columbia Heights for delivery. My husband works in downtown so he ordered with his colleagues and added salsa for a fee. The office crew loved them. Ofelio came with three salsas – green, mole and a chunky tomato based salsa that I would slather all over huevos rancheros if I had any left. Order in Spanish for a free tamal! 3tamales for $8, 6 for $14 or a dozen for $24. 202-702-0637
- We’ve written about then before, but Lezo’s Taqueria in Mt. Pleasant has some delicious mole tamales. That makes sense because the owner is from Oaxaca. They also offer green, rajas and sweet tamales. $3 each. (202) 265-0243. 3213 Mount Pleasant St NW, Washington, DC 20010.
- I also cheated and texted my brother this request: Can you overnight me some tamales for Christmas? Are you serious, he asked? “Yes,”, so he did! Carniceria Matehuala in Irving, Texas (Dallas) has some fine red pork and green chicken tamales for about $6 a dozen! Call your brother, or stop by if you live in the Dallas area.
Feliz Navidad Y’all!