How To Make Belizean Tamales
It would be no exaggeration to say that tamales come with quite the pedigree. Victoria Freixa, whose cooking blog waxes poetic about tamale making, has researched this humble, tasty dish, learning that “the first evidence of the tamal is over 10,000 years old.”
Yes, she spells it “tamal” because that’s the literal translation found on ancient records created by a variety of Mesoamerican cultures including the Aztec, Olmec, Toltec and Maya peoples. Considered a delicacy, this dish was prepared on special occasions and taken on long journeys and hunting trips thanks to their portability.
Fast food for ancient societies? You might say that — but some ingredients used to fill the earliest tamales could disturb you. They include turkey eggs, rabbit, fish, gopher, frog and flamingo. Today’s tamale may be less exotic, but until you’ve eaten tamales prepared Belizean-style, you have no idea what heavenly food tastes like. Here are the directions for making 20 of the best Belizean tamales since the Maya left town.
20 smoked banana leaves, cut in 10-inch squares
4 pounds chicken, cut into serving sizes
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon Season All
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
²⁄₃ cup onion, diced
²⁄₃ cup green bell peppers, de-seeded, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1¼ cups cilantro, minced
¼ cup vegetable oil
1½ cups warm water
¼ cup red recado paste
¾ pound corn masa
²⁄₃ cup water
2 teaspoons salt
Pepper sauce or chopped hot peppers
Optional: diced parboiled potatoes and/or peas.
12 Steps for preparing Belizean yummy tamales
1. Clean banana leaves with a damp cloth. Season the chicken with salt, Season All, black pepper and sugar.
2. Heat oil in a deep saucepan; add chicken and lightly brown. Add 1½ c. water.
3. Dilute recado in ⅓ c. warm water and add to chicken. Simmer 30 minutes.
4. Remove and set aside chicken after straining the broth and returning it to the pot. Simmer broth.
5. Prepare the col: Mix ¾-lb. corn masa, 2 tsp. salt and 2/3-c. water. Add broth and stir to thicken. Remove from heat and set col aside.
6. Make the dough. Mix 2⅓ lb. corn masa, 4 tsp. salt, 1¼ c. water and 1 c. vegetable oil. Blend to custard consistency.
7. Place each trimmed banana leaf on a larger square of foil.
8. Spread a 5-inch circle of ⅓ cup masa mixture around the middle of each leaf. Top with ⅓ cup col mixture, a piece of chicken and a slice of tomato.
9. Wrap the tamales: Bring opposite sides of banana leaves and foil together; fold down tightly to create packages.
10. Line the bottom of a large pot with banana leaves and fill with wrapped packages. Add about 4-inches of water.
11. Steam tamales for 45 minutes to 1 hour. As water evaporates, add a little more.
12. Top with pepper sauce or chopped hot peppers to add heat. Let stand a few minutes before serving with bottles of ice cold Belikin beer.