Friday, February 6, 2009

My mommy loves me

She loves me so much, she makes me tamales. She buys the fresh masa from one of the many Mexican supermarkets in our neighborhood. Masa is the ground cornmeal that is used as the base for tamales and tortillas. My little Chinese mother takes the masa home and mixes it with chicken stock for flavor and some other secret ingredients so the masa is light and fluffy. Then my little Chinese mommy makes a red chile sauce for the filling. She takes dried red chiles, reconstitutes them in hot water, then blends them up with spices and more chicken stock. She simmers lean pieces of pork or chicken breast until they are tender then shreds the meat. She mixes the shredded meat with the red chile sauce and lets the mixture marinate together overnight. Then she soaks the corn husks she purchased from the same Mexican supermart and lets them sit in water overnight.

The next day, she takes out her large bowl of her home-mixed masa and her homemade meat filling. My little Chinese mommy assembles her tamales. She stands at the kitchen table and puts together dozens of tamales for hours. Like I said, my mommy loves me.

How do you fill a tamale? Luckily, years of Christmas tamales have taught me how to make a tamale. You take a corn husk and you spread a large tablespoon and a half of masa on the husk. In the middle of the masa, put a tablespoon of meat and spread it evenly along the length of the masa. Carefully fold the husk in thirds over the masa then flip the bottom of the corn husk so that it's folded in half. I will take pictures the next time I'm in Southern California and we're making tamales. Mom steams the tamales for about half an hour to 45 minutes in a giant steamer on our stove. When the tamales are done, she lets the tamales cool and then freezes them for us in packs of 12. She labels our packs of tamales by "P" for pork and "C" for chicken. Mom brought these few dozen of frozen tamales all the way to Denver for us. From Denver, we flew these tamales home to Oslo and straight into our freezer. This is how we are able to enjoy homemade, real Mexican tamales in a city barren of real Mexican food.

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