You know that saying "It takes a village to raise a child?" Tamales are kind of like that too. It takes a small and dedicated army to bring them to appropriate fruition (NOTE: Do not attempt making tamales on your own. We repeat ...). And it's worth the effort. Done right, you can almost feel the love radiating from them. Each one is like a thoughtful little gift: a hand-formed pile of masa cradled around a hearty portion of meat that has been slow-cooked, spiced and shredded to perfection, then wrapped in a corn husk and steamed to its hearty, heartwarming conclusion. Here's how two local heartwarmers compare:
Don't let their pale hue mislead you. El Huachi's pork tamales still pack a potent punch. These tamales come with a robust portion of masa threaded through with a slender rope of pork, light and mild enough to almost be confused with chicken. You can't see what direction it's coming from but each bite bears enough of a spicy chile wallop to keep you coming back for more. Tamales run $2.04 each.
Compared to El Huachi's, La Loma's pork tamales look like weathered, muscled bruisers. The pork, a nice and greasy combo of darker and lighter meat, is the star here, but the masa bears mentioning too: It is less refined, more textured than El Huachi's. At $2.09 apiece, La Loma's tamales are a nickel more than El Huachi's.
The Winner: While touched with a nice chile bite, El Huachi's tamales were a little dry and bite for bite didn't have as much pig as we were hoping for. We felt like we kind of had to dig around for it. In La Loma's tamales, however, the pork took center stage, almost aggressively spilling out of the burnt orange, sunset-colored masa. And the rich, fatty meat was judiciously spiced. Definitely worth that extra nickel!