Tamal is a corn pastry wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks, that can either be savory or sweet. It is made throughout Latin American with different flavors and fillings, however the Peruvian version is the one I love.
Tamal varies according to the Regions of Peru, in Lima is wrapped in banana leaves, in the Andes is wrapped in corn husks. There are many varieties of tamal, quinoa, artichokes, tamal verde, that is made with cilantro.
It represents family, breakfast and Sundays. It is normally part of the weekend breakfast for many Peruvian families, and also used as a first course at many dinner parties.
It is believed that the African slaves brought the tamales and the pork and hens for the filling, were brought by the Spaniards. I remember on Sundays early morning there was a lady selling tamales with a basket full of them, walking down the street where we lived screaming Taaaaamaaaaleeeesss and we would look at the window so we can come out and buy them. The aroma of the tamales will invade the house, they were firm but at the same time they would melt in your mouth and the flavors were amazing. At the same time, my mom will be cooking chicharrones (crispy pork belly) and camote frito (fried sweet potato)
Even though I heard many times they were not easy to make, I have made them successfully, and I want to share my recipe with all of you!
Yield: 8 people
2 ¼ lb white dried corn
2 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup lard
1.5 lb.pork shoulder
3 tbsp.achiote oil
1/2 ts finely diced chopped onions
2 tsp garlic puree
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp Ají Mirasol Paste
3.5 oz Peruvian Olives
1/3 cup peanuts
8 Banana Leaves
Soak the corn overnight and peel. Put in blender with 2 cups of the chicken stock, puree and set aside. Season the pork belly with salt and pepper, in a medium pot put the lard and sear the pork until golden. Add the other 2 cups of chicken stock and let it cook for 15 minutes. Set aside together the pork and stock.
On another pot pour the achiote oil, add the onions and cook until transparent, add garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, Aji Mirasol Paste and Aji Panca Paste, mix everything and let it cook for 5 minutes. Add the corn mix and two cups of the pork stock that is set aside. Add the peanuts and cook for 15 minutes. Let it cool.
Arrange the banana leaves on table and place two tablespoons of the mix on each leave. Place a piece of pork and a piece of olive in it. Fold over the sides and then the ends of the banana leaf to enclose the filling.
Place the wrapped tamales on a steamer pot and cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Serve with salsa criolla.
*Achiote oil: It is used to give flavor and color to certain foods. It is made by steeping Annatto seeds into vegetable oil.
**Annatto seeds and Peruvian ingredients can be found at any Latin American store and also online in Amazon.com
***Salsa Criolla: Julienne onions mixed with lime juice, salt and pepper and chopped cilantro.