As the holidays continue and we ready for the new year, many will offer blessings for our heart and hearth.And nothing blesses my hearth more than a few dozen tamales lovingly hand-made in homes or selected from a steaming basket that an experienced tamale-maker offers as she passes from office to office. For those who do not possess the skills nor the energy to craft their own tamales, DFW is rich with eager cooks willing to share their bounty.
Local chef Stephan Pyles co-authored a book on tamales and makes literally thousands of them for the holiday season. Says Pyles, “West Texas has heavy southern and Hispanic influences and one of my favorite early memories is my discovery of tamales. I was most intrigued by the fact that they came in their own special ‘gift-wrapping.’ That early fascination was enough inspiration for me to compose an entire book on the subject.”
by Steven Doyle
In a time when women were kept at home and away from the workplace Maria Luna, who at the time was a single parent, rose from the kitchen to create her mark on Dallas history with Luna’s Tortilla Factory. A strong and devoted woman Luna gathered local women to crush her nixtamal , or corn that would become masa. Once gathered from Luna had the masa formed into tortillas and tamales which became a business that is now 95 years old and run by her son and grandson, both named Fernando.
Maria Luna ran her business, originally located on McKinney Avenue near downtown on a block that Luna purchased in 1938 for about $50,000 and shared with the original El Fenix. There the family worked, living above the tortilla factory. This meant dedication. Maria never turned away a stranger in need of fresh tortillas regardless of the hour. The building has since been remodeled to accommodate Meso Maya, and is considered a historical landmark. Continue reading
Tamales can be traced back to as early as 7000 B.C. in Pre-Columbian history, when the Aztec women were taken along in battle as cooks for the army. They made the masa for the tortillas, stews, drinks, etc. But as the warring tribes of the Aztec, Mayan, and Inca cultures grew, there was a need to have a more portable yet sustainable food and the tamales could be made ahead of time, packed and warmed as needed. This requirement demanded the creativity of the women and the tamale was born. Continue reading
Urban Taco is celebrating the holiday season with the “12 Days of Tamales,” a special menu of daily changing seasonal hand-made tamales available December 13-24.
Guests can order during lunch or dinner as a tamale trio plate with black beans and roasted corn con crema for $9.75. In addition to enjoying the tamales at the restaurant, place an order for any variety of tamale to go with 24 hours notice, with a minimum order of one dozen for $18. Continue reading
by Steven Doyle photos by Robert Bostick
You know Abel Gonzales from his annual stint at the Texas State Fair as the Fried Food King. In 2015 he cranked out a plethora of fried lobster with a side of champagne gravy. In 2004, he won with the fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich, in 2005 with Fried Coke, in 2006 with fried cookie dough, in 2008 with deep-fried butter, and in 2011 with Fried Jambalaya. He is also called the Fried Jesus.
We visited with Gonzales recently because we were tipped off about his extreme tamale and posole making. Come to find out that the chef has a kitchen on Ross Avenue where he has been catering weddings and a vast array of parties. The kitchen itself is massive and larger than many hotel kitchens I have seen. I was thinking he might be catering up Fried Jambalaya, but actually the man can cook like a maniac.
“We had this kitchen sitting idle for a year. We originally got the kitchen to cook out of for the fair, but needed to use this space for more culinary events. I have the culinary background, and haver been doing this all my life. I just needed to get away from the television and do it,” said Gonzales. Continue reading
by Steven Doyle
La Popular is one of the most respected tamale makers in Dallas and for a good reason. The tamale continually makes the top of any best tamale list since they opened in 1984. This year they streamlined their operations moving their flagship location to its sister restaurant, Peak and Elm located at 123 N. Peak in East Dallas.
The Peak location is home to Peak and Elm, which is a popular Mexican restaurant. The Moreno family expanded the kitchen to make room for the tamale assembly line, and will continue to offer tamales for pick up as they have done in the years past. Continue reading