Abraham Salum on Tamales

by Steven Doyle                 photos by Robert Bostick

We are knee deep into the holiday season. For restaurateurs this is the busiest time of year as they cater parties and enjoy increased traffic. This is also the height of tamale season, so we set out to find some of the city’s best tamales and share our findings with you over the next few weeks.

Our first visit was to Komali where we found chef Abraham Salum gearing up with his own delicious brand of tamales. Below we have a special holiday Q&A with Salum and discuss tamales. 

Komali serves a tamale every day, right?

Yes, we hand make our tamales every day and they are Oaxacan style. That means they are wrapped in banana leaves. We do three different flavors. We do pork with pasilla sauce, a chicken in tomatillo sauce and we one with Oaxaca and poblano peppers.

Are you doing any special tamales for the holidays?

We are actually. For the holidays we are making special tamales and people may call and order them, but they will be more central Mexico style which means they will be wrapped in corn husks. These are not like the Northern Mexico tamales you find in Dallas typically, but like you would find in Puebla, or Tlaxcala and the state of Mexico. The difference is they are bigger and lighter in texture. They are not as dense as the typical tamale you would find in Northern Mexico

What flavors will you be making with these special tamales?

We are going to make five different flavors. We are going to do the chicken and tomatillo, the pork pasilla, Oaxaca and poblano peppers, black bean and queso fresco, and a dessert tamale with pineapple and pecans.

Growing up in Mexico you are our resident tamale expert. What are some other varieties of tamales?

Every region you go to in Mexico has a different tamal. If you go to the Yucatan they have completely different tamales, they call them colados. These are very wet in texture and are wrapped in banana leaves. If you go to Michoacán they are called uchepos which are made with corn that are  triangle shaped and wrapped in banana leaves as well.

One of my favorite tamales is from Tobasco and is called a chanchamito. These are about an inch and a half long and an inch wide. They are tiny, tiny, tiny and about two bites. They serve you a plate with about twenty of them and you eat them all. Absolutely delicious.

Tamales are a strong part of the Mexican culture. We use them for holidays like Day of the Dead, Christmas, New Years, Epiphany and Easter. These are the major holidays where we make tamales. Everybody has a different recipe, every region is different.

What are some holiday memories you have with tamales?

Well, more than just a memory, let me tell you about two of my favorite holidays in Mexico. One of them is the Day of the Dead where we put up an alter to our deceased decorate it with the food they liked. We celebrate their life and their death, but it is also an excuse for the family to get together and have a big meal. Day of the Dead feasts will have tamales, atole, moles, and you have pan de muertos which is the bread for the Day of the Dead.

My other favorite holiday is the Epiphany, which is when the three kings came to see Jesus Christ when he was born. That is the fifth of January. We serve Rosca de Reyes which is a bread that has dried fruit inside. They also put in one or two little baby Jesus’ inside the bread, and if you get that then you are expected to host a party on Día de la Candelaria celebrated on February 2nd and serve tamales for everybody.

These are my favorite holidays because tamales are served.

When can we order your special tamales?

Order them as soon as possible and they will be ready for pick up whenever you need them before Christmas.


Filed under chefs, fun with food, Holiday Fun, Party!, restaurant news, Robert Bostick, Steven Doyle, tamales

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