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The LA International Tamale Festival


The LA Int'l Tamale Festival on Sat, Nov 1.


The Jalapeno-cheese tamale with salsa from Mama's Int'l Tamale


The elote (sweet corn tamale)


The sweet corn (top) and the chilean humo (bottom), undressed.

The best thing about going to this festival twice (Sat Nov 1 & Sun Nov 2) in sketchy MacArthur Park area is finding out that there is an official name to my favorite sweet corn tamale. It's called "Elote".

The reason why I love Elote so much is because this is the only kind of tamale available in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, where I grew up. Of course, the ones I had in Bolivia were much better, containing not only ground sweet corn, but ground hominy as well as bits of Menonite cheese to give the masa some stretch. It's the best balance of sweet and salty. In Bolivia, they just called this "tamale". They also had tamale del horno, which was a drier version wrapped in banana leaf.

The other tamales were okay. I was never a fan of tamales with meat. I think I prefer the cheesy ones. Hence, I really liked the jalapeno and cheese tamales and the elotes. I brought home 9 elotes and 4 jalapeno and cheese. 13 tamales for $25 (they threw one in for free).

Yeah, it felt like a rip off but I figure it's hard to get to MacArthur Park again just to buy tamales. I justified my splurge by saying that I was helping out the festival's longevity. Also, I tried making sweet corn tamales at home and I ended up spending over a hundred dollars trying to get the proportions right, and I still have over a dozen uneaten tamales in my freezer. When my family hears the word tamale, they freak out, asking me "Are you going to try to make them again?!" That's enough for me to just go out and buy some. I love cooking but I'm not good at making everything.

Damn tamales = my Achilles heel.
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