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Mississippi Delta Style Tamales in Chicago, Found at Last

Mississippi Delta Style Tamales in Chicago, Found at Last
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  • Mississippi Delta Style Tamales in Chicago, Found at Last

    Post #1 - March 22nd, 2008, 1:37 pm
    Post #1 - March 22nd, 2008, 1:37 pm Post #1 - March 22nd, 2008, 1:37 pm
    Ever since John T Edge's query almost eight years ago, I've been looking for Delta-style tamales in Chicago. A few years later, JeffB suggested that commercial Chicago tamales might have Southern roots. That's still an open and interesting possibility but regardless of lineage, Chicago's Tom Toms and Supremes aren't quite the same as classic Delta tamales. For in-depth coverage of Delta tamales, hit the Tamale Trail, a terrific Southern Foodways Alliance website.

    Over the years I've kept my eyes open at Chicago's barbecue houses and soul food restaurants but always came up empty. That is, until the other day when a few of us were driving around the West Side. At Chicago & Laramie I spotted a sign advertising Mississippi tamales.

    Image

    Unfortunately the place had gone out of business (I believe the tamales used to be sold from the small red shack barely visible behind the 7-Up machine). Luckily the guy who was displaying his blankets and paintings on the fence was able to direct us to their new location on Madison near Central.

    Image

    J's Meats is the kind of place you'd probably drive right by without a thought. Indeed we had just driven past a half hour earlier.

    Image

    Window signs clearly advertise the store's specialty. Pay up front ($1.25 each or $5.50 a half dozen) then carry your receipt to the counter in back where a pot of tamales is kept simmering. The foil-wrapped packets are retrieved from the murky red depths and wrapped together in larger piece of foil. Juice leaks almost immediately from their brown paper sack. These tamales are wet.

    Image

    Inside the foil is a cornhusk wrapper.

    Image

    Inside the cornhusk is a well-spiced cornmeal shell surrounding a ground beef core. In addition to the usual red pepper and cumin these had an unusual herbal presence I was unable to decipher. I don't know how they'd go over in Clarksdale but for Chicago they're pretty special.

    Why are Delta tamales so uncommon in Chicago? I think it's partly due to the dominance of the factory-made versions (Tom Tom dates from the 1930s and Supreme from the '50s) and because Chicago's large Mexican population keeps the city supplied. I suspect at one time Delta-style tamales were more common in Chicago (in the late 1940s Langston Hughes praised the local tamales) but the tradition slowly died out. Even so, I have little doubt there still are other Delta-style tamales hiding in Chicago. Anyone know where?

    J's Fresh Meats & Food Mart
    5615 W Madison St
    Chicago
    773-287-3030
    Last edited by Rene G on March 26th, 2008, 3:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #2 - March 22nd, 2008, 2:47 pm
    Post #2 - March 22nd, 2008, 2:47 pm Post #2 - March 22nd, 2008, 2:47 pm
    This is exciting news!!! If you can find me some real boudin north of Mississippi you are an explorer on par with Sakajewea.

    Rene G wrote:I don't know how they'd go over in Clarksdale but for Chicago they're pretty special.


    Several years ago I spent the longest month of my life on trial in Chickasaw County Mississippi and spent a lot of time in Clarksdale, Tunica and Oxford.

    The saving grace of that month long debacle was Big Jim's Tamale stand near the "crossroads" in Clarksdale and eating tons and tons of gas station bar-b-que all over northern Mississippi. I think I gave up an artery to Big Jims and another to the tamale guy at the corner of St. Charles and Washington in New Orleans while I was in law school. I feel the need to make a west side sojurn in the very near future. If the tamales taste the way they look (they look like a delta tamale :) ) Rene will have to call my cardiologist and do some explaining for me. Thanks for the heads up, I cant wait to try 'em.
  • Post #3 - March 22nd, 2008, 4:20 pm
    Post #3 - March 22nd, 2008, 4:20 pm Post #3 - March 22nd, 2008, 4:20 pm
    Rene G,

    Never do you post without my learning something.

    Thank you.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #4 - March 22nd, 2008, 6:52 pm
    Post #4 - March 22nd, 2008, 6:52 pm Post #4 - March 22nd, 2008, 6:52 pm
    This is exciting news!!! If you can find me some real boudin north of Mississippi you are an explorer on par with Sakajewea.

    Ask and You shall receive

    Anyway, I hadn't seen anyone mention this, but he has awesome boudin sausage and you can buy it frozen to bring home to continue the love...if you call ahead, you can also get one of the whole pecan pies to bring home as well.

    http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=18063

    Wish I could figure out how to quote a single line ex: JLS Wrote:
    Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food: frequently there must be a beverage.
    Woody Allen
  • Post #5 - March 22nd, 2008, 7:20 pm
    Post #5 - March 22nd, 2008, 7:20 pm Post #5 - March 22nd, 2008, 7:20 pm
    There used to be a place in Kansas City called Hot Tamale Brown's Cajun Express* that had these tamales. I didn't realize it was a regional thing, just assumed that the people there made up their own version of a tamale.

    I lived a couple of blocks away from Hot Tamale Brown's, and I was addicted to those things! I loved their firm yet moist, grainy texture, and the cajun spiced ground meat filling was complimented perfectly by a nice vinegar-y hot sauce. I always ate them with lots of Louisiana, and a biscuit from Popeyes, which was located around the corner.
    Image

    Thanks, Rene, it's good to hear that these can be found here in Chicago, too.


    *Hot Tamale Brown's was located in an old bank building on 39th street, one block west of Main, in Westport. I don't remember much else on their menu besides these wonderful tamales! They closed a year or two ago, maybe more. There is now a pretty good Caribbean restaurant, called Island Spice Caribbean, in its place.

    Island Spice Caribbean

    10 W 39th St
    Kansas City, MO 64111
    Logan: Come on, everybody, wang chung tonight! What? Everybody, wang chung tonight! Wang chung, or I'll kick your ass!
  • Post #6 - March 23rd, 2008, 10:58 am
    Post #6 - March 23rd, 2008, 10:58 am Post #6 - March 23rd, 2008, 10:58 am
    What a find, I had all but given up searching for the Delta tamale's presence in Chicago and was convinced the closest place to get them was from Willies in Sparland, IL.

    If you dont mind my asking how did these compare with the ones offered by Willie? I love tamales and the Delta style are my favorite and I think thats due to the fact I loved the Chicago factory Delta style offered everywhere. I have only had them at a food cart in Tampa, FL and from Willies but I have always planned a trip to the Delta ever since I got a taste of homemade Delta style tamale's.
  • Post #7 - March 23rd, 2008, 11:46 am
    Post #7 - March 23rd, 2008, 11:46 am Post #7 - March 23rd, 2008, 11:46 am
    bnowell724 wrote:*Hot Tamale Brown's was located in an old bank building on 39th street, one block west of Main, in Westport. I don't remember much else on their menu besides these wonderful tamales! They closed a year or two ago, maybe more. There is now a pretty good Caribbean restaurant, called Island Spice Caribbean, in its place.


    Hot Tamale Brown's must have predated my regular visits to KC, but I've eaten carryout from Island Spice Caribbean and strongly recommend it to anyone going to KC as a change of pace from BBQ. The jerk dishes are great. They are cooked dry and very much in the style you would actually find along the side of the road in Jamaica rather than in the watery stew style found in so many of the Chicago Jamaican places.

    Island Spice Caribbean
    10 W 39th St
    Kansas City, MO 64111
    (816) 523-3974
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #8 - March 23rd, 2008, 12:35 pm
    Post #8 - March 23rd, 2008, 12:35 pm Post #8 - March 23rd, 2008, 12:35 pm
    Hot Tamale Brown's went under about five years ago and was replaced, as mentioned, by Island Spice. The new establishment has an extensive and authentic (at least to me) menu featuring not just the usual jerk and curried chicken dishes, but also a wide range of fish including red snapper, ocean perch, and catfish (all offered either escoveited or brown stewed), shrimp, ox tails, cow feet, and curried goat.

    Their sides are exceptional, especially the steemed(sic) cabbage whose deep rich flavor transcends the implications of its supposedly simple preparation. Other sides include the requisite fried plantains, along with red beans and rice, calaloo, and something called "festival" which I have not yet ordered so cannot comment.

    Even if you are not hungry, if you are in the area of Island Spice, stop in and pick up a large glass of their homemade ginger beer. It has almost no carbonation, but relies solely on its refreshing, spicy flavor to satisfy your taste buds. Outstanding!

    Best to visit in warmer weather as the small dining area has almost no shield against the winter winds when anyone opens the front door.

    Buddy
  • Post #9 - March 23rd, 2008, 1:06 pm
    Post #9 - March 23rd, 2008, 1:06 pm Post #9 - March 23rd, 2008, 1:06 pm
    BuddyRoadhouse wrote:something called "festival" which I have not yet ordered so cannot comment.


    Festival is a cornbread-like bread, IIRC.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #10 - March 23rd, 2008, 1:09 pm
    Post #10 - March 23rd, 2008, 1:09 pm Post #10 - March 23rd, 2008, 1:09 pm
    Some day, there may be a collection of the breakthrough LTH posts, based on vast food knowledge and original research, and ReneG's posts will comprise a disproportionate (though well deserved) number of entries in that collection.

    PS. Thanks again, Peter, for the pig rec -- we can't wait to visit our little porker.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #11 - March 23rd, 2008, 2:18 pm
    Post #11 - March 23rd, 2008, 2:18 pm Post #11 - March 23rd, 2008, 2:18 pm
    David Hammond wrote:Some day, there may be a collection of the breakthrough LTH posts, based on vast food knowledge and original research, and ReneG's posts will comprise a disproportionate (though well deserved) number of entries in that collection.


    ReneG deserves a lifetime achievement award.
  • Post #12 - March 23rd, 2008, 6:37 pm
    Post #12 - March 23rd, 2008, 6:37 pm Post #12 - March 23rd, 2008, 6:37 pm
    Congratulations on your find.

    Da Beef wrote:If you dont mind my asking how did these compare with the ones offered by Willie?

    And, if you don't mind my asking, how did the spicing of these tamales compare to those at Freddie's in Cleveland? There was a spice in there that puzzled me, sort of Szechuan peppercorn-like (I mean in the aromatic vs. the heat dimension.)
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
  • Post #13 - March 25th, 2008, 11:28 am
    Post #13 - March 25th, 2008, 11:28 am Post #13 - March 25th, 2008, 11:28 am
    Tagging along with Peter on this recent Westside excursion and visibly seeing his excitment when he discovered the "Mississippi Hot Tamales" sign across the street was truly priceless. It's moments like this that make combing through the city for treasures like this highly memorable.

    I have little to no Mississippi Delta tamale experience, having only tried Doe's version (Little Rock, Arkansas) once a few years back.

    I love a good tamale, any style. But there are several things about the Mississippi Delta style that make it better than many other tamale versions. Since it is boiled in a spiced broth (often times with cayenne pepper, cumin, chili powder, paprika, garlic. black pepper, oil, etc.) instead of merely steamed, the entire tamale is spiced, not just the filling. Boiling it in this stew (which often times includes beef talo) naturally makes the cornmeal and overall tamale creamier (soggier?) and extra luscious.
    The tamale doesn't sound or look appealing, but tasting it absolutely is. They also look like a complete mess since the outer wrapper is completely trenched in oil from the broth. However, I can assure you that you'll be like a dog going after a ham bone after just a few bites.

    I also really enjoy the use of beef (which is cooked first in the broth and then later added in the assemblage of the tamale), a common feature historically to most Mississppi Delta Tamales. Pork is also sometimes used, however.

    Thanks, Peter.
  • Post #14 - March 25th, 2008, 11:52 am
    Post #14 - March 25th, 2008, 11:52 am Post #14 - March 25th, 2008, 11:52 am
    HI,

    An aside, last year I brought a small clutch of Willie's tamales to the Southern Foodways Team along with the spices needed for the water. I was rather pleased by their reaction: it tasted just like it should.

    Looking forward to trying the very local Mississippi Delta tamales. Willies in Sparland is at least an hours drive from Cajun Connection in Utica and there is nothing else beyond Willies to check out.

    IT is also fortuitous this local Mississippi Delta find since Southern Foodways is visiting Chicago over Memorial Day weekend. Details are on the Event's board.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #15 - March 25th, 2008, 11:57 am
    Post #15 - March 25th, 2008, 11:57 am Post #15 - March 25th, 2008, 11:57 am
    PIGMON wrote:I have little to no Mississippi Delta tamale experience, having only tried Doe's version (Little Rock, Arkansas) once a few years back.


    I have also been to Doe's and I vaguely remember their tamales being covered in chili. Am I correct about this? I know they are famous for tamales (btw i have only eaten at the little rock doe's too) but i dont remember if they are delta style in the true sense of the word.

    BTW Pigmon's description of the wrapper as drenched in oil from from the broth from which it was fished is a perfect way to articulate what I consider to be one of the hallmarks of a delta tamale. The first time I ate one I had a hard time with this part of the dish having grown up eating a more mexican style. I was able to get over this "problem" after my first bite, however.
  • Post #16 - March 25th, 2008, 12:16 pm
    Post #16 - March 25th, 2008, 12:16 pm Post #16 - March 25th, 2008, 12:16 pm
    PIGMON wrote:I love a good tamale, any style. But there are several things about the Mississippi Delta style that make it better than many other tamale versions. Since it is boiled in a spiced broth (often times with cayenne pepper, cumin, chili powder, paprika, garlic. black pepper, oil, etc.) instead of merely steamed, the entire tamale is spiced, not just the filling. Boiling it in this stew (which often times includes beef talo) naturally makes the cornmeal and overall tamale creamier (soggier?) and extra luscious. The tamale doesn't sound or look appealing, but tasting it absolutely is. They also look like a complete mess since the outer wrapper is completely trenched in oil from the broth. However, I can assure you that you'll be like a dog going after a ham bone after just a few bites.


    I hadn't made the connection until I read this line, but this "soggy" tamale is very much like the first tamales I ever enjoyed as a kid in Chicago. Derby brand tamales came (and, I believe, may still come) in a jar, sitting in liquid that has a similar spice profile to the one Pigmon describes (cumin, chili powder, oil). My brothers and I used to love these slimy things, and were thrilled to peruse the label to see we were eating beef tongue (big joke among us boys: invite friends over, give them tamales, and announce mid-way through meal that they were eating tongue...hoo ha!).
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #17 - March 25th, 2008, 1:33 pm
    Post #17 - March 25th, 2008, 1:33 pm Post #17 - March 25th, 2008, 1:33 pm
    boy oh boy .....Derby Tamales. I almost forgot , my Dad used to bring home jars of them. If I'm not mistaken they were wrapped in paper and packed in a greasy orange sauce.

    Tamales and pees pleeeze!
  • Post #18 - March 26th, 2008, 3:45 pm
    Post #18 - March 26th, 2008, 3:45 pm Post #18 - March 26th, 2008, 3:45 pm
    iblock9 wrote:This is exciting news!!! If you can find me some real boudin north of Mississippi you are an explorer on par with Sakajewea.

    You used to be able to buy good Louisianna boudin at Jesselson's Fish Market on 53rd in Hyde Park but unfortunately that shop closed about 10 years ago. Marshall K's suggestion of Ron's Cajun Connection is a good one. Ron likes to fry stuff so you can get some tasty deep-fried boudin balls while you're there. Utica is a bit of a trip so if you go that far you might as well go to Willie's in Sparland to pick up some tamales.

    In Chicago, have you tried the boudin at Lagniappe? I've been very happy with almost everything I've had there.

    Josephine wrote:
    Da Beef wrote:If you dont mind my asking how did these compare with the ones offered by Willie?

    And, if you don't mind my asking, how did the spicing of these tamales compare to those at Freddie's in Cleveland? There was a spice in there that puzzled me, sort of Szechuan peppercorn-like (I mean in the aromatic vs. the heat dimension.)

    As I recall, Willie's tamales were aggressively seasoned, with red pepper and cumin standing out. They had a wet but gritty texture unlike most Mexican tamales. The ones from T's Meats were even wetter, almost soupy, and the cornmeal seemed more finely textured. They too were heavily spiced with red pepper and cumin but also had a "green" herbal undertone that might have come from fresh jalapeños (or who knows what?). Freddie's version, served split open like a gutted fish, was very cornmeal-y and somewhat dry but not at all unpleasant. This one also had a more complex spice profile (in addition to flat-out hot) I still haven't figured out.
  • Post #19 - March 26th, 2008, 4:36 pm
    Post #19 - March 26th, 2008, 4:36 pm Post #19 - March 26th, 2008, 4:36 pm
    I remember eating those Derby tamales as a kid. Also, there was a similar product sold by Van Camp's. I've looked for them, but haven't seen them for many years. Does anyone know if they are still produced?
    What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about?
  • Post #20 - March 26th, 2008, 5:14 pm
    Post #20 - March 26th, 2008, 5:14 pm Post #20 - March 26th, 2008, 5:14 pm
    iblock9 wrote:I have also been to Doe's and I vaguely remember their tamales being covered in chili. Am I correct about this?


    According to trixie-pea (me lady friend...memory like an elephant. Me...memory like a block of wood.), there was a chili option. However, the regular offering on the menu was without.
    Last edited by PIGMON on November 8th, 2008, 2:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #21 - March 26th, 2008, 5:48 pm
    Post #21 - March 26th, 2008, 5:48 pm Post #21 - March 26th, 2008, 5:48 pm
    Cogito wrote:I remember eating those Derby tamales as a kid. Also, there was a similar product sold by Van Camp's. I've looked for them, but haven't seen them for many years. Does anyone know if they are still produced?


    I am not sure about the Van Camp's version but The Derby Brand is available at most grocery stores.
    "Very good... but not my favorite." ~ Johnny Depp as Roux the Gypsy in Chocolat
  • Post #22 - March 29th, 2008, 5:55 pm
    Post #22 - March 29th, 2008, 5:55 pm Post #22 - March 29th, 2008, 5:55 pm
    I had the pleasure of meeting the tamale man himself, Yoland, and he ain't sellin' that recipe, folks. I had no idea that there was such a thing as a Mississippi Hot Tamale. I was so pleasantly surprised. I took my sample home to share with my boyfriend who was more familiar with Mississippi soul food. He called it "savory" and I was back the next day to buy two more for dinner. A great find. Check it out on the west side by the intersection of Madison and Central. I park at the cash store on the corner. Be careful though, that parking lot is like a series of speed bumps!
  • Post #23 - March 29th, 2008, 11:33 pm
    Post #23 - March 29th, 2008, 11:33 pm Post #23 - March 29th, 2008, 11:33 pm
    Marshall K wrote:Wish I could figure out how to quote a single line ex: JLS Wrote:

    At the upper right of very post there is a button that says "quote." Click that and it will quote open a reply box with the entire post quoted and credited. Then you can edit it down to the relevant line.

    Alternatively, at the top of the reply box, there are a series of buttons: B i u Quote, etc. Click the quote button; type what you want to quote; click again.
  • Post #24 - March 30th, 2008, 10:38 am
    Post #24 - March 30th, 2008, 10:38 am Post #24 - March 30th, 2008, 10:38 am
    I made it over to J's on Friday to try the delta style tamales and thought they were pretty damn good. I decided to get 15 of them and they were kind of shocked that I did so. The man who helped me out said " MAN y'all really love these tamales huh?" so im assuming there have been a few LTH'ers that have made the trek west to try these.

    I cant really describe the product any better than Rene G did up above. These tamales were very wet and served "wet" some hadnt been fully cooked and were mushy while others were in perfect form. They are wrapped in foil and left simmering in the pot of spiced water and when the man takes them out they drip everywhere. Some advice for anyone making the trek, dont eat these things in your car, you will regret it. I thought them to be different than the one's offered by Willie but still very much enjoyed the product.

    Major props to ReneG for this find, I can honestly admit that as much as I go on food exploration's to any and everywhere, I would never have come across this gemmer. I had trouble spotting the place even when I knew the address. I didnt have a chance to meet the man who makes these tamales but the guy working had told me how he wished that he was here so he could show him I ordered 15. He told me the delta tamale man gets a real kick out of the fact that his tamale's have gained fame on the internet, his partner made sure to let it be known that they appreciate the business. Great spot.
  • Post #25 - April 9th, 2008, 12:12 am
    Post #25 - April 9th, 2008, 12:12 am Post #25 - April 9th, 2008, 12:12 am
    Cogito wrote:I remember eating those Derby tamales as a kid. Also, there was a similar product sold by Van Camp's. I've looked for them, but haven't seen them for many years. Does anyone know if they are still produced?

    A shame you weren't around for the Co-Op's 40% Off Sale. Derby brand tamales (and others) can be found in the potted meat aisle of many of Chicago's finer supermarkets. I bet those Hormels make for some mighty good eatin'.

    Image

    Food-yGrrl wrote:I was back the next day to buy two more for dinner.

    Da Beef wrote:I made it over to J's on Friday to try the delta style tamales and thought they were pretty damn good.

    Excellent! Thanks for the reports. I'm happy to hear people are visiting J's and enjoying the tamales. Here's a picture from Easter Sunday at J's Meats.

    Image
  • Post #26 - April 19th, 2008, 11:20 pm
    Post #26 - April 19th, 2008, 11:20 pm Post #26 - April 19th, 2008, 11:20 pm
    "MAN y'all really love these tamales huh?"


    We're causing something of a stir at Madison and Central. The gentleman pictured above pointed at me as soon as I walked into the store and said "tamales!"* The guy at the deli counter, who is from Leland, Mississippi on the Delta, nodded pleasantly when I arrived at the back, and said they'd been making extra lately because of "the interest". Two women, who had purchased a package of bread at the front of the store and were having the deli guy put 40 cents and 85 cents, respectively, of ham on their ad hoc sandwiches, were very curious at the tamale pot and had them open one of the foil and corn husk wrappers to reveal the soaking oily cornmeal. They ordered one to split.

    This is an establishment run by very nice people. However, for a recent grand opening, I must say that the store is in some disarray, and saw no evidence of "fresh meats," the only offerings in the case being head cheese, ham, and muenster, and most of the traffic in the deli area of the store was to the gloppy liquid cheese dispenser.

    Still, I would go back in a second if the tamales were that exceptional. Sadly, they didn't do the trick for me. As aforementioned, they're sodden. Completely wet. Permeated by the juices of the home-use crock pot in which they're contained. The natural corn husk looks appealing, but the internal flavor to me was completely Lawry's Taco Seasoning, marinated in hot dog water.

    All the same, I am very thankful to Rene to opening my eyes to yet another spot on my route home, and to this particular item of American cuisine. I can see what potential is contained in the Delta-style tamale, and would look forward to another example from a different place, or perhaps getting J's to make a fresh batch to be steamed at home.

    * I always like to think I'm not that white, since in Spain people think I'm Basque, and in Morocco Algerian, and in Russia Chechen. Chicago reminds me constantly: I'm that white. I'm basically fading out of my own boring existence.
  • Post #27 - April 20th, 2008, 8:12 am
    Post #27 - April 20th, 2008, 8:12 am Post #27 - April 20th, 2008, 8:12 am
    Hi,

    When we tried some Mississippi style tamales at Willies' in the land beyond Chicago, we bought some to take home. In addition to the frozen tamales, they gave us each a foil packet with the seasoning for the water. It appeared to be Chili powder. The instructions were to bring a pot of water to boil, add the seasonings and the tamales, then simmer for 20 minutes.

    I never did prepare them. My Mom found a clutch, then heated them in the microwave. What was left went with me to a Southern Foodways Alliance meeting. I was advised later they were very good examples of the type.

    While steaming may be a more comfortable frame of reference, the cooking in water is a hallmark of the style.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #28 - April 20th, 2008, 8:31 am
    Post #28 - April 20th, 2008, 8:31 am Post #28 - April 20th, 2008, 8:31 am
    To add on the Willies/J's style and difference. As pointed out above, delta tamal's are pre-made then cooked in a bath of spices. Having been fortunate enough to try both J's and Willie's offerings, I would take Willie's. Not sure they are the best out there but I cant imagine them getting any better, you can compare it to someone eating their first ever beef at Johnnie's, its going to be hard to find better.

    I think one of the reasons the tamales at J's are so much more mushy is due to the fact that they rest in the liquid all day. I dont remember if Willie leaves his sitting in a pot, but I do remember taking some to go for the next day and was given the same secret spice pack and told to dump the spices in water into a can and reheat the tamals in the spiced water. The tamals were given to me wrapped in foil and didnt rest in water when I had them in my possession.

    J's isnt going to be anybody's "best delta tamales" spot, but in a city where its the only choice, beggars cant be choosers. I agree with the above post about the seasoning though, I said the same thing when I was eating mine, they tasted like they were spiced with a taco seasoning packet and about half of the 15 I ordered were mush while the other half were cooked perfect and dint fall apart.
  • Post #29 - April 20th, 2008, 8:52 am
    Post #29 - April 20th, 2008, 8:52 am Post #29 - April 20th, 2008, 8:52 am
    Da Beef,

    I think Willie has a pretty solid understanding on how to prepare those tamales to demand. He has a pretty solid following now. When I first encountered him, he had already run out for the day at 3 PM. When I went last fall just for those tamales, I called ahead my order just to avoid missing them. I didn't reach him until maybe 6 PM, he not only had mine reserved. He had plenty to offer anyone who came at that point.

    The service station al fresco dining is no more. The former garage is now a dining area. He has a full working kitchen. So Willie has done very, very well serving BBQ and tamales out in the middle of rural Illinois. He also has a location in Peoria, though I have not been there yet.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #30 - April 20th, 2008, 3:10 pm
    Post #30 - April 20th, 2008, 3:10 pm Post #30 - April 20th, 2008, 3:10 pm
    Hello everyone, it's the 'Mississippi Hot Tamale' man himself, Yoland! First, I would like to thank everyone for their support & comments. Special thanks to Rene G for the 'hook-up'! I believe in order to do better, you have to know what's wrong. I've given thought to the comments regarding my hot tamales being 'wet & mushy'. I'm personally inviting everyone to come out and try my 'New and Improved' Mississippi Delta Hot Tamales'. I guarentee these will make you keep coming back for more.

    I welcome all questions, please contact me direct at 773-621-1929.

    Yoland Cannon
    Mississippi Hot Tamale Man

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