Thursday, December 22, 2005

¡Que Vivan Los Tamales!

Yesterday we had the pleasure of brunching at an old friend's home, in the Colonia Roma Sur area of Mexico City.
Our friend always delights and surprises us with interesting foods whenever we join her and her family for a meal. Often, it first involves going for a walk through the neighborhood, to some special market stall, roast chicken place or, yesterday, a very special tamalería. She knows that we appreciate these walks that allow us to explore her world and to learn something about it.

During our walk, I was surprised, after passing tempting carnitas and other food stalls, to end up at Tamalli. This is a small takeout restaurant, with—I have to say it—that "plastic, franchise chain look", as evidenced by the full color posters on the walls.

But exteriors are often deceiving in México. Our friend knows her tamales. We got an assortment of at least four different and quite distinctive tamales, and three liters of delicious atoles: Guayaba, cajeta y arroz con canela.

Once back out the house, plates of cut tropical fruits awaited us, but we eagerly tore into the festively wrapped tamales. Each type has a colored ribbon to help identify it according to the handy takeaway menu that you are given. It was almost like opening Christmas presents, except that these were hot and savory little bundles of masa, wrapped in either tawny corn husks or green banana leaves.

The "Gourmet" tamal de chipilín was for me the most distinctive. Years before, we'd had Sopa de Chipilín in the wonderful Tuxtla Gutíerrez restaurant, "Las Pichanchas. Chipilín is a green herb vaguely reminiscient of chives, but really not the same. Yesterday's tamales dough was flecked with the herb. The filling (almost secondary to the well-made masa, was of chicken in a salsa roja.

Tamal de Chipilín

Tamal de Frijol y Queso

Another unusual and surprisingly tasty tamal was the Frijol con Queso. This was a very pale dough which held a generous amount of frijoles negros and queso panela. Modest appearance but simply delicious taste.

We concluded our leisurely brunch with cups of coffee. Unfortunately, we had no room left for the fresh fruit.

Now, we look forward to Christmas Eve, La Nochebuena, when we will help prepare the Christmas Eve supper (to be served at midnight!). This meal will be a fusion of Mexican and Gringo traditions. But the most important part of the celebration it must be said, is the gathering together of family members and friends, to share in the feast. We always feel warmly welcomed into their family celebrations. It's one of the really great things about living or visiting México.

More later....

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