Posted on | September 21, 2012 | 8 Comments
There are many different stories told about the delicious, traditional Peruvian breakfast dish, the tamal. Some claim it’s a native dish, some say it’s from India, still other’s say it came from Africa via slaves brought by the Spanish. However it originally got here, the tamal is definitely a Peruvian tradition, assured to be a part of weekend morning breakfasts, usually stuffed with pork or chicken.
(And just a note - in English, it is typically called the tamale, but in Spanish that final “e” is only added in the plural, tamales. )
Now, while a lot of people claim that the tamal started as a type of soup brought by Africans, it has actually shown up in earlier archaeological findings, even in various Inca and pre-Inca tombs. The tamal is also found in many Central American countries, in a variety of forms – but in Peru, it is synonymous with Sunday morning breakfast.
There are different styles of tamal, both sweet and savory, and different colors like orange, yellow and even green depending on the ingredients used. While not as common today, my husband remembers running behind the tamal vendor like I remember running after the ice cream man; instead of a cheerful tune, he heard the tamal vendor’s cry “Tamales, to cure what ails you!”
The traditional yellow corn tamal, called a “criollo tamal,” is stuffed with a bit of chicken or pork and a black olive, and sometimes a bit of hard boiled egg. But there are many varieties of Peruvian tamales, like:
- Piuran Tamales: The style of tamal from the Piura region, made from white cornmeal that’s been soaked for several days and made with a filling of onions, peppers and pork rind, then wrapped in banana leaves to steam cook.
- Tamal Serrano: uses ‘mote’, a large grain corn similar to hominy, cooked together with butter and salt and filled with meat. It’s steam cooked wrapped in corn husks.
- Green Tamalitos: These are also typical to the Piura region – cilantro is added to the cornmeal giving it a green color. These aren’t usually filled with anything, but are used as an side dish with main courses like “seco de cabrito” (goat stew).
- Cajamarcan Tamal: From Cajamarca, this tamal is made from corn meal kneaded together with aji colorado, filled with pork and wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves.
- Tamal Chinchano: White corn is ground using a batan (a type of mortar and pestle), then cooked with pork jowls, boiled egg and olives, wrapped into a square
- Quinoa Tamal – made with the quinoa in place of corn, it’s usually called “tamalada”
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