History of Tamara's



The History of Tamara's


I started making tamales when I was seven years old. My fondest childhood memories are of making tamales at Christmas and on Saturdays at my grandmotherŐs church, Our Lady of Guadalupe, in East Los Angeles.

My grandmother and other church ladies made tamales every Saturday to sell after Sunday mass. I loved the process, the ladies and the environment, the sales, and mostly learning how to make them properly and well.

For the holidays, my mother and grandmother and all the female hands we could gather would make the best tamales I have ever had. Red pork chile, beef with red chile sauce, chicken verde, green chile cheese, pineapple raisin, chicken sinaloa, and corn and cheese. During the summer months when the Mexican dent corn was available, my mother would make the fresh green corn tamales. My mother was a master cook and made everything. Foods of every nationality, Mexican of course, Italian, Chinese, French, Indian, Middle Eastern. She baked breads and made candy, not to mention jams and jellies, cream brule, every pie known to man, empanadas, challah, brioche, crepes, blintzes, and of course, our beloved tamales. Have I missed anything?

Tamara and I started our tamale business in 1996 to share our love of tamales with everyone. We have always loved tamales and would go anywhere to buy and taste them. Too often, we were disappointed. They were too hard, too dry, had too much masa and too little filling, not enough sauce or flavor, or the filling was too dry. We loved tamales so much that we didnŐt want to wait for the Christmas holidays or celebrations to enjoy them. So, we made them whenever we wanted them during the remainder of the year. We were also vegetarians for several years and I started making vegetarian tamales for us. When our family and friends tasted them, they all asked me to make more kinds with meat and other ingredients. I began experimenting and creating most of the tamales that are on our menu. Some were created after we started the business. We actually tested them first, making them in my kitchen and selling them to cast and crewmembers of various television and motion picture companies. They were an immediate hit and Tamara and I started looking for a commercial kitchen to make them in.

We envisioned the business to be very traditional, similar to a donut shop. One would come in, buy a half dozen to a dozen, and take them home, to the office or to a party, and eat them or keep them in the fridge or freeze them. Well, our customers had other ideas and our restaurant business grew out of the desires of our customers.

We make hundreds of tamales a day. Each and every tamale is handmade fresh. Tamara prepares all the fillings and occasionally I make some. Tamara has learned to cook all the ingredients in the family tradition. The tamales themselves are assembled and steamed by Tamaleras, the tamale ladies.

We make hundreds and thousands of tamales for special orders, parties, weddings, other occasions, restaurants, hotels, caterers, and of course, tamale lovers all over the US. We are presently pursuing accounts with restaurant chains, health food stores, and large grocery stores. All of our tamales are healthy, nutritional, fresh, and made in the tradition of the "perfect" tamale - soft, moist masa, plenty of filling and enough sauce to make the perfect balance. They are steamed for the exact amount of time it takes to cook but not overcook, and immediately transferred to trays and covered, where they cool off to maintain their moistness. To us, overcooked tamale is too dry and inedible. They are then boxed, labeled, and put into the refrigerator. They are sold hot or cold.

The only tamale that we make and freeze immediately is the fresh green corn tamale. This is due to the fact that we buy the fresh corn on the cob directly from the fields in Mexico in very large quantities and the whole amount of corn must be processed immediately to maintain freshness. We defrost these tamales as needed.

The best way to eat tamales is to request the ones just coming out of the steaming pots. This is the only way Tamara and I eat our tamales. I guess you can say that we are spoiled! When special orders are made we do our best to time the pickup of the order to coincide with the tamales just coming out of the pots.

So, take that as a hint. When you want to have the very best possible tamale experience, when you come in, ask the counter person what tamales are just coming out of the steaming pots and buy those and eat them while they are still hot! You will be so glad you did.

Alice G. Tapp

Note: Alice is currently writing a tamale cookbook. The working title is "Tamales 101" Included are all the recipes from the TamaraŐs Tamale menu, plus many more she has created from her almost 50 years of making tamales.

For a sample recipe, please see Recipes.