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It’s the season of the year – that is, tamales season.
The tamal is a delightful thing, an ancient food with hundreds of varieties and has been enjoyed for several millennia since it was first eaten in Mesoamerica. While there has been some debate over whether tamal or tamale should be used for the singular form of tamales, both come from the Nahuatl word tamalli, which refers to cornmeal cakes that are cooked and served in a corn husk wrap.
Nowadays, the most popular time to prepare and share tamales is the holidays, from Thanksgiving to Día de los Reyes in January. Tamaladas – a get-together to make tamales – has become an annual tradition in many Mexican-American households as an assembly line of friends and family work together to make edible love works.
If you don’t have time for a tamalada this year, your Christmas tamales can also be bought from family-run businesses around the Phoenix Metro.
Here are five local places to order your tamales for the vacation:
La Fama Mexican Food and Bakery
This traditional bakery has served the West Valley for more than 45 years. In 1974, Obdulio Marquez, a former mariachi performer from Zacatecas, opened La Fama. He was involved in the business until his death in 2011 and his daughters have kept the family business going ever since.
Lourdes Marquez Adame told The Republic in 2019 that the Christmas evenings of her childhood were spent stacking up in the family van early in the morning to drive from South Phoenix to Glendale, where all hands were on deck to queues Catering to people buying tamales at the last minute. Typically, La Fama makes between 40 and 70 dozen tamales a day from November to December.
La Fama is currently taking Christmas pre-orders for red chilli meat and green corn tamales, as well as pineapple or berry dessert tamales. Bags with masa preparada are also available in the shop. The last day for collection is December 24th at 11am
Details: 5328 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale. 623-931-1460, facebook.com/LaFamaBakery.
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The tamale shop
Martha Castillo (center) stands with her famous tamales and daughters Maria Stanzak (L) and Pauline Pimienta (R) in the Tamale Store in Phoenix, Arizona on November 26, 2018.
You won’t find tacos or burritos in the Tamale Store. As the name of this restaurant in northern Phoenix suggests, co-owner Martha Castillo focuses almost exclusively on tamales.
“I grew up with tamales almost every day because I loved them so much. Every morning there was a tamales seller near my house. I went there every day to have tamales for breakfast. Every day, “says the Mexico City-born Tamale boss told the republic in 2018.
Their tamale menu has a variety of choices including chicken chipotle, chicken mole, and Tex-Mex style with ground beef, Monterey Jack, and mild red chilli.
Christmas pre-orders for frozen tamales ended on December 1st, but tamales are still available in-store on a first-come basis. The store is closed on Sundays December 12th and 19th, unless pre-booked for pickups.
Details: 15842 N. Cave Creek Street, Phoenix. 602-435-2604, thetamalestore.com.
You may find Reynaldo “Rey” Cota, a Chase Field security guard, on his days off hurling extra-large tamales from Division 137 at the ballpark. Derrick Hall, CEO of Arizona Diamondbacks, discovered Cotas Tamales after someone brought her to a meeting. “They were amazing,” Hall said in 2014. After that first bite, the Diamondbacks invested more than $ 20,000 to help Cota open a food stand in Chase Field.
The homemade tamale recipe comes from Cota’s mother Gloria, hence the name ReyGloria’s. Cota grew up in Guadalupe, Arizona, watching his mother make tamales for weddings, church, and his father’s long distance drives.
ReyGloria’s is taking pre-orders for red chilli beef, green chilli chicken and vegetarian green chilli tamales. People should call before December 24th to order, Cota advised. Delivery can be arranged and there is a pick-up location near Chase Field in Phoenix.
Details: Call Rey Cota or send a text message at 480-599-7050.
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Tamales and tacos Puebla
Ricardo Aguirre filed his and his wife’s homemade red and green chilli tamales from a minivan in West Phoenix and showed up at Llanteras, Park ‘n Swaps, and the Glendale drive-in theater.
The idea of selling tamales started with Aguirre’s wife, Silvia Romero, who bet she could sell more tamales than a colleague at the production company she worked for. Their tamales have a lumpy filling rather than a crushed one. The couple has since turned their business into a licensed food truck and catering company named after Romero’s hometown of Puebla.
People can order online at Tamales y Tacos Puebla at tamalesytacospuebla.com. Options include green or red chili with chicken, beef, or pork; rajas con queso; chicken mole wrapped in banana leaf; sweet strawberry and sweet pineapple tamales.
Details: 602-308-9334, facebook.com/pueblaaz.
Carolina’s Mexican food
Manuel and Carolina Valenzuela opened their first restaurant in Phoenix in 1968. The family business now has several locations in the Valley.
Carolinas (pronounced car-oh-LINE-az) is considered a phoenix treasure. Founders Manuel and Carolina Valenzuela began selling homemade tortillas, burritos, and tamales in the backseat of family cars at wrestling matches and to migrant workers in the 1950s, according to one of the restaurant websites.
The couple opened their first restaurant in Phoenix in 1968 and soon became a staple food in the Valley. Today, various family members carry on the legacy at locations in Phoenix, Avondale, Peoria, and Mesa.
Pre-orders for red chilli beef, green chilli corn and green chilli chicken tamales can only be picked up at the Mohave Street location. Family size orders should be placed by December 23rd. 22. The restaurant is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas.
Details: 1202 E. Mohave St., Phoenix. 602-252-1503, carolinasmex.com.
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Reach the reporter at Priscilla.Totiya@azcentral.com. Follow @priscillatotiya on Twitter and Instagram.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Buy Metro Phoenix Holiday Tamales at These 5 Family Dining Outlets