Edmonton’s idea of Mexican food is an affront to everything the cuisine stands for. Cheap, plentiful and authentically flavoured are words unknown to the purveyors of burritos and tacos in this town. Fast food chains aside, there are very few options, and the most popular of all, Julios Barrio, is such a disgrace it’s not even worth the wear on my keyboard to rant about them.
One symptom of this condition is the complete abscence of tamales. If I wanted a vegan tamale, I’d certainly have to make it myself, which I’ve always wanted to do. Unfortunately, finding the required corn husks has proven to be a challenge.
Portland, on the other hand, seemed to be filling my senses with the presence of tamales on an everyday basis. It wasn’t long before I was soaking a bag of corn husks in anticipation of making my own. I decided to use the everyday chipotle-vegetable tamale recipe from Veganomicon, which are made with a basic chipotle bean filling. I was able to get all the simple ingredients at the Alberta Co-Op Grocery, which just happens to be one of my favourite places I’ve ever purchased food. They had the masa harina flour in bulk and I loved the smell as I scooped it into the bag.
The components of tamales are really simple, basically a dough wrapped around a filling which is rolled up in a corn husk to contain it for steaming. Easy, right? I expected some trouble with the rolling part, but it took me almost to the last of the huge double batch I made to gain the required finesse to roll beautiful tamales. These are definitely the thing to get a friend with excellent manual dexterity to assist with. I found that a precise application of both fingers and teeth enabled me to tie up the tamale ends nicely without them unraveling.
After all the rolling and tying came the easy part, stuffing the tamales in a big steamer basket and letting them cook for about forty minutes. I took the time to play with the kitties, you may spend your forty minute window however you please. The absence of kitties will not affect the outcome of your tamales.
That is a heck of a lot of tamales, just as I’d dreamed. I packed them, steaming hot, into a paper bag then into my backpack for the bike ride to Susie and Maeve’s apartment. Tamales are very portable! Not like a casserole or pie, which you have to drive around on the bus. As everybody dug in, I remembered to snap an almost-too-hungry-to-bother photo of the finished product. This one broke apart a bit so you can see the filling. The dough to filling ratio was also too high, which was my mistake, but they were amazing regardless!
I love the texture the husks give the dough, so natural! Once I can find some corn husks in Edmonton, I’ll be making these all the time, probably with less effort now that I’ve figured out the finer points of rolling a tamale.