Each area of the country has its own holiday traditions. From gingerbread to fruitcake, certain annual dishes cue our taste buds that it is Christmas-time. In Texas, it seems that the span from Christmas Eve through New Year’s Eve is dedicated to the tamale.
This South American and Mexican food staple has great appeal in Fort Worth and comes with a vast array of fillings. Most are wrapped in tender masa and steamed inside a corn-husk (not all however – some are actually wrapped in banana leaves instead).
Here are a few favorites you might want to try this Christmas season:
Reata – Tenderloin Tamales with Pecan Mash
This culinary legend has been on the menu at Reata from the very beginning – long before talented Chef Andrew Dilda took the reins. These overstuffed beauties are served open-faced with a spoon of fresh pico and a drizzle of sun-dried tomato cream sauce. One makes a hearty appetizer and two makes a full meal. Call ahead to order them by the dozen ($30), you will get them frozen with instructions for heating – making these Tenderloin Tamales a perfect Christmas gift as well.
310 Houston St.
Mariposa’s Latin Kitchen – Turkey and Dressing tamales
These tamales are the ever-popular, brainchild of Chef Irma Padilla. They are available occasionally for dine-in and to order by the dozen ($18). The only thing “Latin” about this dish is the corn husk. Other than that it tastes exactly like an entire Christmas meal all wrapped together. Padilla serves them along with some sweet potato casserole and draped with fresh cranberries for a knockout new family tradition.
5724 Locke Ave.
Hot Damn Tamales – Mushroom and Texas Goat Cheese Tamales
They are made with lard-free masa, making them some of the most delicious vegetarian tamales around ($28 per dozen). Owner and gourmet tamale mogul, Ione Stavron dreamed them up to highlight the “earthy flavor of wild mushrooms accented with smoky Chipotle peppers and the subtle zing of fine artisan Texas goat cheese.” Hot Damn Tamales ships internationally and has many interesting flavors to choose from, including Chocolate and Cherry dessert tamales, but I am partial to her Mushroom and Goat Cheese flavor.
713 W. Magnolia Ave.
Melis Taqueria – Traditional Pork Tamales
You probably pass by this shack on Vickery all the time. It is a strictly walk-up order window and cash-only deal. But one dozen hand-rolled pork tamales ($14) that come freshly steamed and wrapped in tinfoil, make a nice take-home meal during the holiday rush. These tamales are filled with slightly spicy pork. There are no other designer options available at Melis, just builder-basic pork tamales…but they are delicious. Call ahead for quick pickup.
4304 West Vickery Blvd.
Cantina Laredo – Chicken or Beef Tamales
Cantina Laredo house-made tamales are convenient for downtown pickup. The restaurant’s chicken and beef tamales are available every day, just give them six hour notice to get them ready ($16.95 per dozen). They are lovingly swaddled in a corn husk and tied up with a bow for a pretty presentation.
530 Throckmorton St.