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Tis the Season for Tamales

1 December 2008 1,296 views 9 Comments

oaxacantamaleoThis weekend Brandon and I stopped off at Oaxacan Tamaleo for lunch. It was my first visit to the restaurant in the year it moved from the gas station on West Anderson to Cedar Creek (near the Hyatt Lost Pines). While the food is yummy — especially the mole sauce, the new location is a schlep and the atmosphere is depressing. It’s definitely worth a stop-off if you are driving East though. It’s December unbelievably and Christmas is around the corner. In Central American communities and in Texas in general, that means it’s time for tamales! A tamale is a traditional food that consists of steam-cooked corn dough with or without filling. They can be filled with meats, cheese and chilies and are then wrapped in corn husk or plantain leaf before cooking. In Hispanic culture, the preparation of tamales is a group activity led by the women of the household and is a time for story telling and laughter throughout the hours it takes to make enough for family and friends. I think the best tamales are those cooked with love at home. I haven’t tried homemade tamales in Austin but this woman comes recommended as someone who is selling them out of her home to help make the holiday season brighter for her family. She speaks only Spanish so if you call to order, be sure you know enough to make your order or ask a friend to call for you. Sonia (homemaker) Phone: 512.916.4557 Location: South/Central Austin Lead Time: About 4 days right now — probably longer as we get closer to the holiday. Cost: $10/dozen Procurement: Pick up takes place at her home. She lives off William Cannon and I-35 Tamales: Beef and pork with red chilies Chicken with green salsa Below are some local businesses that also sell tamales. I ranked them in order of my recommendations — I haven’t tried tamales from all of these spots but spoke with a handful of knowledgeable people who helped me with the order. Oaxacan Tamaleo tamalesPhone: 512.289.9262 Location: Saturday Farmer’s Market downtown and at Sunset Valley (the restaurant is 27 miles East of downtown) Lead Time: 1 week under normal conditions but get your order in early for the holidays Cost: $30/dozen Procurement: You can order the tamales over the phone and pick ‘em up at either Farmer’s market between 9-1 on a Saturday. They come frozen. Tamales: Chicken in Red Mole Pork in Green Salsa Black Bean (vegetarian) Nueva Onda Phone: 512.447.5063 Location: Just North of Oltorf and Congress Lead Time: Taking orders for Xmas from now through Dec. 19 Cost: $7.50/dozen Procurement: Pick up at the store but they are made in San Antonio at Delicious Tamales. They come hot, cold, or frozen – your pick. Note — they are cheaper if you buy direct. Tamales: Jalapeno Pork Pork Chicken Bean Veggie (black bean, corn, red bell pepper cilantro) Curra’s Phone: 512.444.0012 (South) Location: North and South Austin Lead Time: Order from now through Dec. 16 for holiday enjoyment Cost: $18/dozen (minimum 2 dozen) Procurement: Order online and they come either cold or frozen. Tamales: Pork Chicken Green Chicken Bean Veggie Sweet (pineapple, coconuts, raisin, sugar dough) Fiesta Phone: 512.406.3900 Location: Access road to I-35 just past 38th Lead Time: None. Cost: Varies. Procurement: The guy on the phone told me their tamales are not good. He recommended Nueva Onda. Also, there are always women selling homemade tamales in the parking lot if you want to buy ‘em off the black market. They can be up to $3 each though! Tamales: Pork Beef Various I’d love to hear about your personal tamale experiences or who you think makes the best tamales in Austin. Please feel free to add your own comments and share with other readers!

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  • El Mundo De Mando

    Hey Jodi. I forgot about this annual Tamale Sale. Manos de Cristo a local nonprofit sells them every year. 10 bucks a dozen. Orders must be in by Dec. 8th. Call 477-7454 or email: jballesteros@manosdecristo.org.

  • Jami

    Your blog makes my day!

  • Mommy Linda

    I hope all of these places that you mention in your blog appreciate you and your free advertising. These tamales are making me hungry!

  • chia berry

    I’ve ordered a few times from this family who is selling tamales to make ends meet. The tamales are not for the health concious/vegetarian (made with manteca and generous portions of queso mexicano or meat) but they are pretty good. And for $8 a dozen it’s hard to beat. They’ve delivered to my house, but I think they live near Wm Cannon. Flor: 788 6300. She may only speak spanish, I’m not sure.

  • Jodi

    Thanks so much for the extra suggestions, everyone! If anyone does end up ordering from any of these spots, I’d love to hear more feedback!

  • Marcos

    I used to go to Tamaleo all the time for lunch… it was close to work. Not worth the drive past the airport though. Pity.

    Some of the best tamales I eat here come from an unexpected source: my grandmother sends me lots of dozens from the one Kosher store in Monterrey whenever someone drives to Austin. Tamales and kreplach. They are fantastic.

  • Claudia

    Hi Jodi, here are a couple of my faves: Taqueria la Flor
    4901 S. 1st St., in the Stop-N-Shop parking lot. 417-4214. The lady is from Michoacán and makes very authentic, fluffy tamales, like they should be. They have them daily, but she’ll take orders in quantity. Speaks OK English, enough to take your order. I also love the banana leaf wrapped(not plantain) Salvadoran tamales at El Zunzal,642 Calles St., just off of E. 7th @ the corner with the HEB. 474-7749. Good luck on your quest for tamales! Claudia

  • Jodi

    Marcos – I’d love to try those kosher tamales next time you get a shipment.

    Claudia – Thanks so much for your insight. Folks — Claudia is a local expert in tamales so I’d definitely check her suggestions out!

  • Catherine

    Santa Rita Cantina has great tamales! They only make them during the holidays…so you have to take advantage of it soon!!!!