Culture

Mexican Tamales: Learn How to Make this Tasty Tradition for Your Feasting Table

So you’re craving tamales but don’t wanna embarrass yourself in front of your abuela by asking for la receta?

Don’t worry, we got you.

No matter what filling you go with – green chili, queso, jalapeño, chicken with red chili, pork, sweet corn – this recipe will make your mami, your abuela, your novio/novia beyond proud!

First, let’s check out the first step – the ingredients:

10 Pounds of masa

6 Pounds of pork

6 Tomatoes

5 Garlic cloves

1 Onion

16 Guajillo chilis

Packet of corn husks

Salt

Pepper

2 Tbsp of chicken broth

Thyme

Now that we know what we need, let’s get down to business.

Instructions:

  1. Let the corn husks soak in hot water while following the next steps.
  2. Over medium heat, cook the meat until most of the grease has been released.
  3. While the meat is cooking, prepare the salsa: Add 10 chilis to a pot of boiling water, then add the 6 tomatoes, 3 garlic cloves and 1/4 of the onion. Remove from heat and blend when combined.
  4. Pour the salsa over the meat and season with salt, pepper, thyme, and 2 tbsp of chicken stock (or consomé). Cover and cook on low heat.
  5. For the masa, bring water to a boil and cook remaining 6 chilis, 2 garlic cloves, and ½ onion. Once soft, remove from heat and blend together until combined.
  6. Add some of the prepared salsa to the masa for color and mix by hand until blended.
  7. Wash the corn husks removing any debris or stray hairs.
  8. Add 3 tbsps of masa and 1 tbsp of meat to the washed corn husks. Then fold and seal the tamal (wrapping in a second husk is optional.)
  9. Add them to the tamalera and cook for 1.5 hours.
  10. Enjoy!

Remember, making tamales is not something you’re just gonna whip up for dinner one night.

Credit: Zhu / Flickr

You can easily spend the entire day working in the kitchen soaking corn husks, steaming masa, and wrapping the filling into cute and tasty regalitos.

But once you bite into your finished tamal…uff.

And hearing that “Buen hecho, mijo” from your mami…priceless.

With something as important to our Mexican identity and culture as tamales are, it’s important to know some facts.

Tamales Go Way, Way Back

Credit: Nikkijw / Flickr

Pretty much every Latino family recalls their abuela’s tamales recipes, or maybe even their abuela’s abuelita’s recipe. But did you know that the tamal tradition dates back to 8,000 B.C.? That’s a long line of abuelas doing their thing!

Thousands of years ago, maize was the most important crop in Mesoamerica. It was so important and special that our ancestors believed that human beings were created from corn.

Maybe because tamales were wrapped in corn husks (just like regalos) and associated with ritual offerings, they have been a staple part of Mexican celebrations: think Christmas, Dia de La Candelaria, bautizos, and weddings.

Tamales Are All Over Latin America

Credit: Dennis Schrader | Unsplash

Sure, Mexican tamales may be the most common variety here in the United States but our brothers and sisters across Central and South America often have their own take on the tamal.

Abuelas in Mexico’s southwestern state of Oaxaca make tamales Oaxacaqueños filled with chicken and onions flavored with the richness of mole negro.

In Venezuela, tamales or “hallacas” are stuffed with pork, raisins, and olives and wrapped in plantain leaves. A variation of the tamal makes an appearance in Cuba as well. Here they go by “tamal en cazuela,” a corn masa and meat dish cooked together into a tasty porridge.

And in Nicaragua, they have “nacatamales.” Here, the filling isn’t precooked, instead it’s filled with raw meat and then steamed which gives the masa a much more intense flavor.

Making tamales is a pain in the a**.

Credit: Gimme Some Oven

Your mami knows it. Your abuela knows it. Why do you think they’re always trying to get your help in the kitchen?

If you’re going to give tamal-making a go, you’ll need to clear your schedule since it’ll be the only thing you do all day.

But, I mean, they’re so good it’s definitely worth it.

La Tamalada 101

Credit: Taiana Martinez Tai | Unsplash

So you’ve decided to embrace your Mexican identity. Or maybe you wanna impress your family or significant other. If you’re gonna tackle tamal-making, you should definitely enlist some help.

In fact, the act of preparing tamales has its own name: la tamalada, which means “tamal-making party.”

Why do you think tamales are so good at uniting family members through generations? Us newbies get a chance to learn from wiser generations while connecting over shared history, identity, and culture.

Making Mexican tamales from scratch requires a few important steps:

Credit: @_yamiarmendariz / Twitter
  • First, you must prepare the corn dough, or masa.
  • Next, you must prepare the filling. Do you want meat or veggies? Do you prefer sweet tamales or savory? Given the various fillings possible, deciding which filling may be the most difficult part of the tamale-making process.
  • After choosing the filling, it’s time to soak the corn husks in water. This step requires careful attention. For some, it’s like giving a baby a bath. Each corn husk must be rinsed and soaked. The corn silk threads must be removed and the husk cleaned.
  • Next comes the fun part, assembly! This is when the family joins in the spreading, filling, and wrapping, of each tamal.

Now for the assembly – this takes practice!

Credit: ricardo / Flickr
  • Spreading: First, be sure your corn husks are dry. If they are wet or damp, the masa will not stay put. Spreading the masa on the corn husk takes patience. Tamal experts often use a spatula to spread the masa onto the corn husk in broad strokes. But not too much! Spreading too much masa will make the tamal impossible to fold. A generous, even layer will do just fine.
  • Filling: After you have a layer of masa spread on the corn husk, it’s time to scoop a dollop of your filling into the center of the masa. One or two tablespoons of filling is plenty. If you add too much filling, you will have a heck of a time wrapping your tamales.
  • Wrapping: Wrapping the tamal is easier than it looks. Simply fold one side over the other. Make sure that the thinner end of the tamal is placed right side up. You may wrap each tamal in parchment paper during steaming.
  • Cooking: Steam them or even microwave them. Making tamales is an intense step-by-step process but when it comes to actually cooking them, they’re pretty simple.

Are you ready for your own La Tamalada?

Credit: Kara Gomez / Flickr

Preparing tamales requires many steps. Maybe this is why no one ever just makes “a few” tamales. You’d have to be loco to go all through this for just four tamales.

One makes tamales when you’re ready to make dozens of tamales. That’s another reason to be surrounded by family and friends at La Tamalada.

Provechito!

READ: There Are People Out There Eating The Corn Husk On Their Tamales And One Twitter Thread Is Exposing Them

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This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

Entertainment

This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

On a recent episode of ABC’s game show To Tell The Truth, three celebrity panelists were tasked to uncover the identity of a real mariachi singer.

Each contender embodied “non-traditional” attributes of mariachi culture either through physical appearance or language barriers, leaving the panelists stumped.

When it came time for the big reveal, with a humble smile 53-year-old Timoteo “El Charro Negro” stood up wowing everyone. Marveled by his talents, Timoteo was asked to perform unveiling his smooth baritone voice.

While not a household name in the U.S., his career spans over 25 years thriving on the catharsis of music.

Timoteo “El Charro Negro” performing “Chiquilla Linda” on Dante Night Show in 2017.

Originally from Dallas, Texas, Timoteo, born Timothy Pollard, moved to Long Beach, California with his family when he was eight years old. The move to California exposed Pollard to Latin culture, as the only Black family in a Mexican neighborhood.

As a child, he recalled watching Cantinflas because he reminded him of comedian Jerry Lewis, but musically he “got exposed to the legends by chance.”

“I was bombarded by all the 1960s, ’70s, and ’50s ranchera music,” Timoteo recalls to mitú.

The unequivocal passion mariachi artists like Javier Solis and Vicente Fernandez possessed heavily resonated with him.

“[The neighbors] always played nostalgic music, oldies but goodies, and that’s one thing I noticed about Mexicans,” Timoteo says. “They can be in their 20s but because they’ve grown up listening to the oldies it’s still very dear to them. That’s how they party.”

For as long as he can remember, Pollard “was born with the genetic disposition to love music,” knowing that his future would align with the arts.

After hearing Vicente Fernandez sing “Lástima Que Seas Ajena,” an awakening occurred in Pollard. While genres like hip-hop and rap were on the rise, Pollard’s passion for ranchera music grew. It was a moment when he realized that this genre best suited his big voice.

Enamored, Pollard began to pursue a career as a Spanish-language vocalist.

El Charro Negro
Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

At 28, Timoteo began learning Spanish by listening and singing along to those artists he adored in his youth.

“When I decided that I wanted to be a mariachi, I didn’t think it was fair to exploit the culture and not understand the language,” he says. “If I’m going to sing, I need to be able to communicate with my audience and engage with them. I need to understand what I’m saying because it was about honor and respect.”

Pollard began performing local gigs after picking up the language in a matter of months. He soon attracted the attention of “Big Boy” Radio that adorned him the name Timoteo “El Charro Negro.”

Embellishing his sound to highlight his Black heritage, Pollard included African instruments like congas and bongos in his orchestra. Faintly putting his own spin on a niche genre, Pollard avoided over-saturating the genre’s sound early in his career.

Embraced by his community as a beloved mariachi, “El Charro Negro” still encountered race-related obstacles as a Black man in the genre.

“There are those [in the industry] who are not in the least bit thrilled to this day. They won’t answer my phone calls, my emails, my text messages I’ve sent,” he says. “The public at large hasn’t a problem with it, but a lot of the time it’s those at the helm of decision making who want to keep [the genre] exclusively Mexican.”

“El Charro Negro” persisted, slowly attracting fans worldwide while promoting a message of harmony through his music.

In 2007, 12 years into his career, Pollard received a golden ticket opportunity.

El Charro Negro
Pollard (left) seen with legendary Mexican artist Vicente Fernandez (right) in 2007. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In a by-chance encounter with a stagehand working on Fernandez’s tour, Pollard was offered the chance to perform onstage. The singer was skeptical that the offer was legit. After all, what are the chances?

The next day Pollard went to his day job at the time and said, “a voice in my head, which I believe was God said, ‘wear your blue velvet traje tonight.'”

That evening Pollard went to a sold-out Stockton Area where he met his idol. As he walked on the stage, Pollard recalls Fernandez insisting that he use his personal mic and band to perform “De Que Manera Te Olvido.”

“[Fernandez] said he did not even want to join me,” he recollects about the show. “He just was kind and generous enough to let me sing that song on his stage with his audience.”

The crowd applauded thunderously, which for Pollard was a sign of good things to come.

El Charro Negro
Timoteo “El Charro Negro” with Don Francisco on Don Francisco Presenta in 2011. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In 2010, he released his debut album “Me Regalo Contigo.” In perfect Spanish, Pollard sings with great conviction replicating the soft tones of old-school boleros.

Unraveling the rollercoaster of relationships, heart-wrenchingly beautiful ballads like “Me Regalo Contigo” and “Celos” are his most streamed songs. One hidden gem that has caught the listener’s attention is “El Medio Morir.”

As soon as the track begins it is unlike the others. Timoteo delivers a ’90s R&B love ballad in Spanish, singing with gumption as his riffs and belts encapsulate his unique sound and story.

Having appeared on shows like Sabado Gigante, Don Francisco Presenta, and Caso Cerrado in 2011, Timoteo’s career prospered.

Timoteo hasn’t released an album since 2010 but he keeps his passion alive. The singer has continued to perform, even during the Covid pandemic. He has high hopes for future success and original releases, choosing to not slow down from his destined musical journey.

“If God is with me, who can be against me? It may not happen in a quick period of time, but God will make my enemies my footstool,” he said.

“I’ve continued to be successful and do some of the things I want to do; maybe not in a particular way or in particular events, but I live in a very happy and fulfilled existence.”

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Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Entertainment

Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Luis Fonsi is kicking off 2021 with a new single. The Puerto Rican superstar premiered the music video for “Vacío” on Feb. 18 featuring rising Boricua singer Rauw Alejandro. The guys put a new spin on the classic “A Puro Dolor” by Son By Four.

Luis Fonsi throws it back to his románticas.

“I called Omar Alfanno, the writer of ‘A Puro Dolo,’ who is a dear friend,” Fonsi tells Latido Music. “I told him what my idea was [with ‘Vacío’] and he loved it. He gave me his blessing, so I wrote a new song around a few of those lines from ‘A Puro Dolor’ to bring back that nostalgia of those old romantic tunes that have been a part of my career as well. It’s a fresh production. It sounds like today, but it has that DNA of a true, old-school ballad.”

The world got to know Luis Fonsi through his global smash hit “Despacito” with Daddy Yankee in 2017. The remix with Canadian pop star Justin Bieber took the song to new heights. That was a big moment in Fonsi’s music career that spans over 20 years.

There’s more to Fonsi than “Despacito.”

Fonsi released his first album, the fittingly-titled Comenzaré, in 1998. While he was on the come-up, he got the opportunity of a lifetime to feature on Christina Aguilera’s debut Latin album Mi Reflejo in 2000. The two collaborated on “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” Luis Fonsi scored multiple Billboard Hot Latin Songs No. 1s in the years that followed and one of the biggest hits was “No Me Doy Por Vencido” in 2008. That was his career-defining romantic ballad.

“Despacito” remains the second most-viewed music video on YouTube with over 7.2 billion views. The hits did not stop there. Later in 2017, he teamed up with Demi Lovato for “Échame La Culpa,” which sits impressively with over 2 billion views.

He’s also appearing on The Voice next month.

Not only is Fonsi working on his new album, but also he’s giving advice to music hopefuls for the new season of The Voice that’s premiering on March 1. Kelly Clarkson tapped him as her Battle Advisor. In an exclusive interview, Fonsi talked with us about “Vacío,” The Voice, and a few of his greatest hits.

What was the experience like to work with Rauw Alejandro for “Vacío”?

Rauw is cool. He’s got that fresh sound. Great artist. Very talented. Amazing onstage. He’s got that great tone and delivery. I thought he had the perfect voice to fit with my voice in this song. We had talked about working together for awhile and I thought that this was the perfect song. He really is such a star. What he’s done in the last couple of years has been amazing. I love what he brought to the table on this song.

Now I want to go through some of your greatest hits. Do you remember working with Christina Aguilera for her Spanish album?

How could you not remember working with her? She’s amazing. That was awhile back. That was like 1999 or something like that. We were both starting out and she was putting out her first Spanish album. I got to sing a beautiful ballad called “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” I got to work with her in the studio and see her sing in front of the mic, which was awesome. She’s great. One of the best voices out there still to this day.

What’s one of your favorite memories of “No Me Doy Por Vencido”?

“No Me Doy Por Vencido” is one of the biggest songs in my career. I think it’s tough to narrow it down just to one memory. I think in general the message of the song is what sticks with me. The song started out as a love song, but it turned into an anthem of hope. We’ve used the song for different important events and campaigns. To me, that song has such a powerful message. It’s bigger than just a love song. It’s bringing hope to people. It’s about not giving up. To be able to kind of give [people] hope through a song is a lot more powerful than I would’ve ever imagined. It’s a very special song.

I feel the message is very relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic we’re living through.

Oh yeah! I wrote that song a long time ago with Claudia Brant, and during the first or second month of the lockdown when we were all stuck at home, we did a virtual writing session and we rewrote “No Me Doy Por Vencido.” Changing the lyrics, kind of adjusting them to this situation that we’re living now. I haven’t recorded it. I’ll do something with it eventually. It’s really cool. It still talks about love. It talks about reuniting. Like the light at the end of the tunnel. It has the hope and love backbone, but it has to do a lot with what we’re going through now.

What do you think of the impact “Despacito” made on the industry?

It’s a blessing to be a part of something so big. Again, it’s just another song. We write these songs and the moment you write them, you don’t really know what’s going to happen with them. Or sometimes you run into these surprises like “Despacito” where it becomes a global phenomenon. It goes No. 1 in places where Spanish songs had never been played. I’m proud. I’m blessed. I’m grateful to have worked with amazing people like Daddy Yankee. Like Justin Bieber for the remix and everyone else involved in the song. My co-writer Erika Ender. The producers Mauricio Rengifo and Andrés Torres. It was really a team effort and it’s a song that obviously changed my career forever.

What was the experience like to work with Demi Lovato on “Echáme La Culpa”?

She’s awesome! One of the coolest recording sessions I’ve ever been a part of. She really wanted to sing in Spanish and she was so excited. We did the song in Spanish and English, but it was like she was more excited about the Spanish version. And she nailed it! She nailed it from the beginning. There was really not much for me to say to her. I probably corrected her once or twice in the pronunciation, but she came prepared and she brought it. She’s an amazing, amazing, amazing vocalist.

You’re going to be a battle advisor on The Voice. What was the experience like to work with Kelly Clarkson?

She’s awesome. What you see is what you get. She’s honest. She’s funny. She’s talented. She’s humble and she’s been very supportive of my career. She invited me to her show and it speaks a lot that she wanted me to be a part of her team as a Battle Advisor for the new season. She supports Latin music and I’m grateful for that. She’s everything you hope she would be. She’s the real deal, a true star, and just one of the coolest people on this planet.

What can we expect from you in 2021?

A lot of new music. Obviously, everything starts today with “Vacío.” This is literally the beginning of what this new album will be. I’ve done nothing but write and record during the last 10 months, so I have a bunch of songs. Great collaborations coming up. I really think the album will be out probably [in the] third or fourth quarter this year. The songs are there and I’m really eager for everybody to hear them.

Read: We Finally Have A Spanish-Language Song As The Most Streamed Song Of All Time

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