“Venga y prueban tus ricos tamales!”
Every time I utter the word tamale, Shawn proudly shouts that out with the thickest Mexican accent he cant make. Apparently, during his two years living in Mexico City he heard a lot of street vendors enthusiastically shout that and I guess its just engraved in his memory. While tamales are a common dish seen through out Latin America, every country has their own variations of it and they sometimes even have their own traditions tied to them as well. No one tamale is alike. For example, in Costa Rica, tamales are a HUGE family event, or at least my mami would make it one every year. Every year growing up, we would set aside one weekend during the Holidays to make the tamales. Everyone knows to set this weekend aside because there is nothing on Earth that triumphs tamale day with the familia. I repeat: Nothing!
When I was a little girl, my mama would only do tamales with our immediate family, just the four of us. I honestly don’t know how she did it. All the work that goes into them plus watching over little children at the same time? #GOALS. She always did it every year, with pride and enthusiasm to share the experience with her children. I guess you could say as an Immigrant, it was her way of feeling close to home. She would always call her mom and relatives in Costa Rica with so much excitement: “YAY! Were having a Tamale party here in UT too!”- but in Spanish obviously. Then as we grew up, we have had the blessing to run into Costa Rican families just like our own here in Utah. Just like that, my family as grown, as we have welcomed them into our family as our own and have included them on the fun. Trust me, when I tell you. Finding a Costa Rican family is like finding a rare jewel. They’re so hard to find, so when we do find each other, we don’t let go. Some people call it “El Calor Latino”.
With that being said, this year in particular we had to divided all the tamales we made by 4 families. Which meant we had to make a ton of tamales. It took us an entire day to prep, cooking enough chicken and pork for 100+ tamales, saving the broth for the masa, cooking all the arroz amarillo that goes into it, potatoes, peppers, carrots…the list goes on and on. Oh and don’t even get me started on the Banana Leaves, we have to prep those too! Cleaning them all, cutting them up to the perfect size and cooking them all until tender so they don’t break when we wrap the tamale in them. Did I mention we do all this the night before? Yea that’s right, all that on prep day. The day of the tamales, my mama and I wake up extra early and make Gallo Pinto and Agua Dulce for everyone to snack on. Bright and early every one comes trickling in with their assigned ingredient ready to start the Tamalea! This year we started at 9 am and didn’t finish the last Tamale until 5pm. Yes, it takes a lot of work, but it honestly is my favorite family tradition. I look forward to it every year!
This year, like I mentioned there were 4 families including my own in on the Tamale fiesta! The more people the merrier. I kid you not, it was so much fun! My uncle brought us fresh Pan Dulce from the Mexican Market, and all the kiddos joined in on the fun and created their own tamales as well. As usual, mi mama had loud Latino Christmas music playing while we were all hard at work creating our masterpieces. All while baby Teddy, observed from his high chair making sure everything was up to par. I honestly can not wait till next year when I can help him make his first tamale. If there is something about motherhood that excites me, is the opportunity and privilege I have to pass on my heritage and culture with my sweet babe.
Not only do I love sharing these traditions with my family and loved ones, but I also love sharing these traditions with you. As requested by many on Instagram, below I have provided the recipe for Costa Rican Tamales. I hope you have as much fun as I do making them. Please, let me know if you have any questions, I would love to help in any way. Also share your tamales, tag me on isnta or even use the hashtag #keepinitfresco. I would love to see your masterpeice of a tamale!
The Costa Rican Tamale recipe is so long, I had to create a 3 part PDF so it doesn’t look to crowded and over whelming. The hard thing about the Tamal recipe, is that we have been doing it by heart for years and years. So as you make yours, feel free to switch it up and add or remove things according to your preference. Enjoy!