When one thinks of Mexican cuisine, a crunchy taco and beefy or beany burrito come to mind. However, one dish that I believe is even better than those two is the traditional tamale. For those unfortunate enough not to know what this fantastic dish is, sit back and enjoy this culinary lesson.
Tamale is a classic dish derived from Mesoamerican cuisine. While there are plenty of variations on this dish, the recipe is made of dough that’s steamed inside a corn husk or banana leaf. This gives the dough a distinct flavor and fantastic corn (or banana leaf) aroma.
The history of tamale is a rich and interesting one. It originated thousands of years ago, and the first pictorial reference to it was found in 100AD in Guatemala. The tamale was also used by the Aztecs and Mayas as a means of taking food along with them on long journeys. Apart from being the perfect lunchbox meal in South America and Mesoamerican areas, it was also considered to be devine food.
Tamale has gradually evolved over the years. The dough in Mexico is filled with lard and sweet and savory (pork or chicken) fillings can be added. Mexicans take tamale seriously, as making them is almost a ritual to them. Tamale also plays a pivotal role in some of their festivals and fiestas.
In Spain, they have tamale filled with tomato sauce. This is called the green corn tamale. In Trinidad and Tobago, tamale is called pastelle, and is an extremely popular Christmas food. They are filled with meat fillings, raisins and other seasonings. While in Asia, they have tamale dishes with meat, seafood, or coconut milk fillings!
As you can see, tamale is a very well-traveled dish that crosses cultures and is extremely popular!
So today, I want to help those of you who love munching tamale (which includes me, of course!). If you have cooked too much and have a lot of leftovers, then reheating them the next day again is a big no-brainer (nothing could be sadder than wasted tamale). However, heating tamales the right way is no easy task, as they can end up dry and starchy if you are not careful. So today, I want to help you learn how to heat tamale properly.
So get your Mexican hats and fiesta face ready, because here are the five best ways to reheat tamale.
The almighty oven is one of the best ways to heat tamale. While it will take a bit longer than the other methods included on this list, the wait is well worth it.
The first thing to do is preheat the oven to about 220 degrees Celsius. As you are waiting for your oven to get hot, wrap the tamales in tin foil twice and place them in an oven-safe pan, making sure that you space the tamale out. Place them on the middle rack inside your oven and wait for twenty to twenty-five minutes.
- Pro Tip: Take your tamales out halfway through to make sure that the dish is heated evenly.
The pan is another great way to reheat tamale, and the sear of the pan adds a desirable crunch to the dough. Start by peeling the husks from the tamales and throwing them away. Prepare your pan and set your stove to a medium heat, then add one teaspoon of canola or olive oil and wait for about two minutes (you will notice a bit of smoke when the oil is ready). Once the pan is sufficiently heated, slowly add the tamales.
Cover your pan with a lid. The whole reheating process should be finished in about eight minutes. Keep flipping the tamales every now and then to ensure they are heated evenly. Once the tamales have a golden brown color on each side, they are done. Serve hot on a plate and enjoy!
Using a steamer is another excellent and easy option. All you need to do is to fill your steamer pot with about ¼ of clean water, place it on your stove, and set the heat to medium. Allow the water to heat up for about eight minutes. Put your tamales on the rack (line them up so that they don’t touch one another) and place in the steaming pot. Make sure the tamales don’t touch the boiling water.
Cover the steaming pot and leave the tamales for about 20 minutes. Check them once in a while to see how they are doing, and once you feel they are cooked thoroughly, serve them hot and enjoy.
- Pro Tip: Use a food thermometer if you are not experienced enough in the kitchen. Cooked tamales should have an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
A deep-fat fryer is a fantastic option if you want the crispiest tamale! First of all, make sure your tamales have been just refrigerated and not frozen. Preheat your deep-fat fryer and set it to medium, and use canola oil for this one. Once the oil is hot, put your huskless tamale in the deep-frying basket and slowly lower it into the hot oil. Be very extra careful when you do this!
Leave the tamale in the deep-fat fryer for about three minutes. When he tamales get a golden brown texture on each side they are done. Put the tamales on a cooling rack before eating!
- Pro Tip: While this is one of the tastiest ways of reheating tamale, it is also the unhealthiest. Bear this in mind if you want to cut back on unwanted fat and calories.
If you are really feeling lazy and just want some tamales without any fuss, then there is always the microwave. Simply put your refrigerated tamales in a bowl or plate and cover it with some damp paper towels (after making sure that it is not dripping). Put the tamales in the microwave and blast it on high for about thirty seconds. Flip the tamale to the other side and replace the damp paper towel with a new one and cook it again for another thirty seconds.
If you feel that the tamales aren’t cooked enough, keep adding another 10 seconds of cooking time until they are done and ready to serve.
- Pro Tip: While this is certainly the easiest option, expect your tamale to be on the soggy side. The damp paper towels can help to ensure that the tamales don’t completely dry out.
What’s not to like about tamale? It’s convenient, has a fantastic backstory, is extremely tasty and it won’t pack on the pounds, despite being very filling. No wonder the world is crazy about this dish! So the next time you are planning to pack your lunch, think about tamale. It tastes great, and as our list shows, it is effortless to reheat!
I definitely had a blast writing this list. I not only cooked some tasty tamales, I also learned a lot about its history. Food sometimes tastes better when it has a great story accompanying it. I really hope that I’ve helped you in the kitchen today!
Did you enjoy the article today? If so, then feel free to share it with your friends and family who are also tamale crazy. And if you have any suggestions or stories about reheating this lovely dish, then please write them down in the space below. So go get your sombrero out and start cooking yourself some tasty tamales!