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Tamales at beef/hot dog joints

Tamales at beef/hot dog joints
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  • Tamales at beef/hot dog joints

    Post #1 - February 19th, 2006, 5:16 pm
    Post #1 - February 19th, 2006, 5:16 pm Post #1 - February 19th, 2006, 5:16 pm
    Was just at Johnnie's today and got a tamale with my beef, and it was exactly the same kind of tamale I had at Portillo's a few weeks ago - one with a ground beef mixture with corn meal wrapped around it. Frankly, I think these tamales taste terrible, but I was wondering if there was some schtick with these beef/dog joints and tamales like these. Is this just the way they do them? Are they as bad as I think or am I just comparing apples to oranges with "authentic" tamales?

    My wife is Latino so I've had my fair share of authentic tamales.
  • Post #2 - February 19th, 2006, 5:24 pm
    Post #2 - February 19th, 2006, 5:24 pm Post #2 - February 19th, 2006, 5:24 pm
    rdstoll wrote:Was just at Johnnie's today and got a tamale with my beef, and it was exactly the same kind of tamale I had at Portillo's a few weeks ago - one with a ground beef mixture with corn meal wrapped around it. Frankly, I think these tamales taste terrible, but I was wondering if there was some schtick with these beef/dog joints and tamales like these. Is this just the way they do them? Are they as bad as I think or am I just comparing apples to oranges with "authentic" tamales?


    r:

    This thread may be of interest to you:
    http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?p=33703#33703

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #3 - February 19th, 2006, 6:49 pm
    Post #3 - February 19th, 2006, 6:49 pm Post #3 - February 19th, 2006, 6:49 pm
    Interesting. I guess they are not terrible, just different. I suppose I'm just so used to authentic tamales.

    Next time I go to Johnnie's, I think I'll get a second beef for my side cart :)
  • Post #4 - February 19th, 2006, 7:46 pm
    Post #4 - February 19th, 2006, 7:46 pm Post #4 - February 19th, 2006, 7:46 pm
    It's kind of funny, but for me it was the opposite. I was probably 40 years old before I had my first 'authentic' tamale. All I'd ever experienced was the tamales served at hot dog stands. The 'bunch' style at Super Dawg was as adventerous as I had ever gotten.

    My first 'authentic' tamale was at Taste of Chicago. Until that point, I didn't even know there was such a thing. But I thought it was novel that they offered a regular and a hot, so I ordered the hot. I took one bite and threw the rest away.
  • Post #5 - February 19th, 2006, 7:59 pm
    Post #5 - February 19th, 2006, 7:59 pm Post #5 - February 19th, 2006, 7:59 pm
    Tamales have been served as gringo junkfood in Chicago since at least 1893:

    "In Chicago, a "San Antonio Chili Stand" was set up on the grounds of the Columbian Exposition in 1893. About the same time, "Tamaleros" plied Chicago's streets selling "Fresh Hot Chicken Tamales."

    "By the early twentieth century, chicken tamales and chili con carne were canned in Chicago by both Armour and Libby."

    Check out this very interesting article about Americanization of Mexican foods, which only just touches on the tameles issue: http://food.oregonstate.edu/ref/culture/mexico_smith.html

    I'll also add the anecdote that my father, who was born in Somerset, KY and grew up in Louisville during the Depression, and moved to Indianapolis in 1937, loved "tamales" and ate them growing up and as an adult. Although knowing what I do about his sensitive digestion, what he meant by "tamales" I have to assume was the Americanized style that had been in vogue for over 30 years before he was born in 1925.
    JiLS
  • Post #6 - February 19th, 2006, 8:36 pm
    Post #6 - February 19th, 2006, 8:36 pm Post #6 - February 19th, 2006, 8:36 pm
    The one's at Taco Burrito King are like a mix of "real" and hot dog stand ones. YUM-O!
    The clown is down!
  • Post #7 - February 19th, 2006, 9:00 pm
    Post #7 - February 19th, 2006, 9:00 pm Post #7 - February 19th, 2006, 9:00 pm
    On that other board, some decent history exists regarding the history of "Americanized" tamales. My hypothesis is that the beef stand style of tamal came to Chicago with the same Mississippi Delta waves that brought so many other defining things to the city. The short version is this: A very similar style remains popular in the Mississippi Delta, including at a few famous roadhouses, and it is fairly well understood that the Delta tamal resulted from the cultural exchange between African American and migrant Mexican field workers early in the last century. The use of corn meal rather than masa is only the most obvious difference.
  • Post #8 - February 20th, 2006, 2:06 pm
    Post #8 - February 20th, 2006, 2:06 pm Post #8 - February 20th, 2006, 2:06 pm
    I found the other forum link very interesting! I love this forum!!

    One other thing I wanted to add to tamale.edu is that there are three general styles of tamales from Mexico. Northern Mexico uses less meat and more masa, Southern Mexico uses more meat and less masa and Central Mexico tends to use something in between.

    A friend of mine works for a Mexican food company that recently launched a line of tamales. I asked how they were and received an, 'uhhh, yeeeuh, I guess they're okay" response. He later said that his company is based in Northern Mexico and their tamales reflected that, and so they haven't been well received in his territory (which serves mostly the botegas in the barrios on the south side in Chicago and suburbs).

    According to my friend, who lived in Mexico for 8 years and goes back regularly, most of the Mexicans here hail from Central Mexico. This was also verified by a few other Mexicans whom I've discussed this with. So besides us being used to 'authentic' Mexican style tamales versus other US regional styles, we're also used to the Central Mexican style.
  • Post #9 - February 20th, 2006, 2:28 pm
    Post #9 - February 20th, 2006, 2:28 pm Post #9 - February 20th, 2006, 2:28 pm
    ... and that doesn't even get us to the Yucatan, Caribbean, Central and South American versions, each of which has its specific attributes (and/or names) with the most obvious variations involving the addition of rice flour, wrapping with a banana leaf, and fillings...

    Most of the various types of tamales/humitas/hallacas/pasteles/paches, etc. are available in Chicago and have been documented here and on CH. The single best place to find the largest variety is La Unica, particularly before Christmas.

    http://www.zermeno.com/Tamales.html
  • Post #10 - February 20th, 2006, 6:59 pm
    Post #10 - February 20th, 2006, 6:59 pm Post #10 - February 20th, 2006, 6:59 pm
    Your comment about the CR tamale now has me curious!! It could very well be that this little place (sorry, I don't remember the name of it) just added it to take care of people that keep asking for a tamale. It wouldn't be the first time an ethnic restaurant altered their menus to serve non-ethnic tastes. I have to say that the entire place momentarily looked at us out of curiosity (we were the only non-Latins there). Sorry, I can't fill you in on the geographical info of the place. I got into that aspect about two years after my mysterious corn tamale.

    As for La Unica, I've PM'd you since it's more appropriate that way given the nature of the message.
  • Post #11 - February 20th, 2006, 8:29 pm
    Post #11 - February 20th, 2006, 8:29 pm Post #11 - February 20th, 2006, 8:29 pm
    Image

    I'm far from a tamale expert, but I had some really good, spicy ones the other day from somebody set up at the corner of Damen and 21st Street. (However, her champurrado tasted as if it had gone off.)

    Image
  • Post #12 - February 20th, 2006, 10:46 pm
    Post #12 - February 20th, 2006, 10:46 pm Post #12 - February 20th, 2006, 10:46 pm
    Honest to goodness, the best tamales I've ever had (Mexican style) were from a lady that sells them on the southwest corner of Division & Ashland every morning (has a Sam Adams umbrella & camps out right next to Pizza Hut). She's out there super early - sometimes 6:00am - and she sells 'em until they are gone. The chicken tamales she sells are simply out of this world. Nice and spicy - very high quality. She also sells pork and beef. Best part is, they cost only 60 cents each!! They make a fantastic breakfast, in my opinion.

    I have yet to have tamales of this quality in any restaraunt.
  • Post #13 - February 21st, 2006, 9:01 am
    Post #13 - February 21st, 2006, 9:01 am Post #13 - February 21st, 2006, 9:01 am
    JeffB wrote: The short version is this: A very similar style remains popular in the Mississippi Delta, including at a few famous roadhouses, and it is fairly well understood that the Delta tamal resulted from the cultural exchange between African American and migrant Mexican field workers early in the last century. The use of corn meal rather than masa is only the most obvious difference.

    Exactly!

    Rob and I went to an Arkansas outlet of Does Eat Place, and had incredible steaks and the fabled tamales. You have to order them in sets of six--they were pretty addictive and we had no problem polishing them off.
  • Post #14 - February 21st, 2006, 10:08 am
    Post #14 - February 21st, 2006, 10:08 am Post #14 - February 21st, 2006, 10:08 am
    rdstoll,

    The tamalera who sets up in front of the Ukie Village Pizza Hut does a nice job. Some of the best tamales are sold in front of fast food places in Chicago. The Rogers Park McDonalds tamalera comes to mind. I also have never had better in a restaurant or grocery than what is cooked at home and sold from the carts and vans.

    $.60 per tamal is pretty amazing. I though about the tamaleras last time I was in Fox & Obel and saw dry looking tamales in the deli section for much, much, much more.
  • Post #15 - February 21st, 2006, 10:32 am
    Post #15 - February 21st, 2006, 10:32 am Post #15 - February 21st, 2006, 10:32 am
    Is $0.60/tamal really cheap? I seem to see 6/$3 or so all the time hereabouts.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #16 - February 21st, 2006, 10:39 am
    Post #16 - February 21st, 2006, 10:39 am Post #16 - February 21st, 2006, 10:39 am
    I grew up on those hot-dog-stand tamales, cornmeal wrapped in paper, a perfect cylinder of gritty, greasy goodness... until I of course learned what I was missing with the Real Thing.

    I think you can still get them in supermarket freezer cases... although I don't know why I would.

    I also remember a lot of "tamale pie" recipes that ended up with very similar flavors, using either cornmeal or crushed Fritos (sic... or is that sick?), ground beef, and a packet of taco seasoning, dating from the late 60's or early 70's.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #17 - February 21st, 2006, 11:49 am
    Post #17 - February 21st, 2006, 11:49 am Post #17 - February 21st, 2006, 11:49 am
    JeffB wrote:The tamalera who sets up in front of the Ukie Village Pizza Hut does a nice job.


    What corner is this lady located at? I'd like to swing over there sometime this week and try them out. Home cooked tamales rule!

    Thanks for the tip!
  • Post #18 - February 21st, 2006, 12:35 pm
    Post #18 - February 21st, 2006, 12:35 pm Post #18 - February 21st, 2006, 12:35 pm
    We're talking about the same tamal lady -- pizza hut on Division near Las Pasaditas... I was just agreeing with you.
  • Post #19 - February 21st, 2006, 12:36 pm
    Post #19 - February 21st, 2006, 12:36 pm Post #19 - February 21st, 2006, 12:36 pm
    I have yet to have tamales of this quality in any restaraunt.

    The closest I've gotten to good tamales in a restaurant is at LaCebolita, on Ashland and 21st. It's really more of a tiny neighborhood diner. They sell theirs at just under 60cents each, or a dozen for $7.

    Thanks for the food vendor tip. One of my friends swears by most of the food vendors as having the closest to homemade.
  • Post #20 - February 21st, 2006, 12:52 pm
    Post #20 - February 21st, 2006, 12:52 pm Post #20 - February 21st, 2006, 12:52 pm
    strawberrycupcake wrote:
    I have yet to have tamales of this quality in any restaraunt.

    The closest I've gotten to good tamales in a restaurant is at LaCebolita, on Ashland and 21st. It's really more of a tiny neighborhood diner. They sell theirs at just under 60cents each, or a dozen for $7.

    Thanks for the food vendor tip. One of my friends swears by most of the food vendors as having the closest to homemade.


    S.,

    La Cebollita is, I believe, just north of 18th on Ashland, not down by Cermak. I'm pretty sure that's the place you mean, no?

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #21 - February 21st, 2006, 1:02 pm
    Post #21 - February 21st, 2006, 1:02 pm Post #21 - February 21st, 2006, 1:02 pm
    JeffB wrote:We're talking about the same tamal lady -- pizza hut on Division near Las Pasaditas... I was just agreeing with you.


    Oh yeah!!! Duh...

    Yeah she's got some of the best, but she's only out there for a while. I used to grab a few for breakfast on my way to the Blue Line.
  • Post #22 - February 21st, 2006, 7:07 pm
    Post #22 - February 21st, 2006, 7:07 pm Post #22 - February 21st, 2006, 7:07 pm
    La Cebollita is, I believe, just north of 18th on Ashland, not down by Cermak. I'm pretty sure that's the place you mean, no?


    Si!! Thanks for catching that. I've had 21st street on my brain for some reason.

    The actual address is:
    La Celbolita
    1723 S Ashland Ave
    Chicago, 60608
    (312) 492-8443

    I've also heard that by 11 am most tamale vendors have sold out, so a morning trek is always in order.
  • Post #23 - February 21st, 2006, 9:38 pm
    Post #23 - February 21st, 2006, 9:38 pm Post #23 - February 21st, 2006, 9:38 pm
    JeffB wrote:My hypothesis is that the beef stand style of tamal came to Chicago with the same Mississippi Delta waves that brought so many other defining things to the city.

    There will soon be what promises to be a fascinating website on Delta tamales. The Southern Foodways Alliance is putting together The Mississippi Hot Tamale Trail. All that’s there now is the first page but you might want to save the link. I’m told the Mother in Law may get a mention.
  • Post #24 - February 22nd, 2006, 1:15 pm
    Post #24 - February 22nd, 2006, 1:15 pm Post #24 - February 22nd, 2006, 1:15 pm
    Hey, there's actually lots of content on the tamale site now, including an oral history from a MS tamale maker who spent time in Chicago then returned to the Delta. Great stuff, and thanks for the link.

    Also, here is a link to the exchange that we and others had regarding Chicago "corn roll" tamales several years back, including input from the Veterans Tamale family.

    Back in 2000, JT Edge was asking about any African American/Delta tamales in Chicago, apparently unaware at that time of our lengthy "other tamale" history at beef and Polish stands. You linked his query in the string.

    I'm glad to see that my hypothesis (a very easy one to make, I admit) has some factual support.

    http://www.chowhound.com/midwest/boards ... 27238.html

    (PS, as far as I'm concerned, the Delta tamale is the only kind of tamal that ends in an "e," as the use is wholly incorrect in Spanish.)
  • Post #25 - February 23rd, 2006, 8:22 am
    Post #25 - February 23rd, 2006, 8:22 am Post #25 - February 23rd, 2006, 8:22 am
    On the subject of tamales, I'd like to call your attention to extramsg's report on his website about street food in Mexico City, which features a discussion and picture of tamales fritos. Take a look (links from Erik M's post in Beyond Chicagoland).

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #26 - April 25th, 2006, 8:35 pm
    Post #26 - April 25th, 2006, 8:35 pm Post #26 - April 25th, 2006, 8:35 pm
    HI,

    I was at Johnnies in Arlington Heights last week. Remembering this thread I ordered a tamale to see for myself what everyone was talking about.

    The modestly priced tamale costs less than $1.50, comes with four individually wrapped masa pillows filled with a chili whose taste reminded me of Coney Island chili with curry tones to it.

    Image

    The masa was very soft and unpleasantly sticky, more like eating thick grits with a filling.

    While I am glad to know what these hot dog stand tamales taste like. I don't think I am going all over town to ferret out the best. I'm simply glad for the experience.

    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 #27 - April 25th, 2006, 10:35 pm
    Post #27 - April 25th, 2006, 10:35 pm Post #27 - April 25th, 2006, 10:35 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:Image



    Cathy,

    Most hot dog stand tamales (actually called corn rolls on the label) are round cylinders. You have discovered an outlet for the rare and getting rarer "bunch" tamale corn roll. Congratulations.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #28 - April 25th, 2006, 11:13 pm
    Post #28 - April 25th, 2006, 11:13 pm Post #28 - April 25th, 2006, 11:13 pm
    SteveZ wrote:You have discovered an outlet for the rare and getting rarer "bunch" tamale corn roll. Congratulations.


    I bumped into it, dumb luck I suppose, though you seem to know what these are. I've never heard of "bunch" tamale roll before, where would have likely gotten them? Are they Mexican or simply an American adaptation? Do you think my comments of a Coney Island Chili-type filling is accurate?

    Best 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 #29 - April 26th, 2006, 5:14 am
    Post #29 - April 26th, 2006, 5:14 am Post #29 - April 26th, 2006, 5:14 am
    Cathy2 wrote:
    SteveZ wrote:You have discovered an outlet for the rare and getting rarer "bunch" tamale corn roll. Congratulations.


    I bumped into it, dumb luck I suppose, though you seem to know what these are. I've never heard of "bunch" tamale roll before, where would have likely gotten them? Are they Mexican or simply an American adaptation? Do you think my comments of a Coney Island Chili-type filling is accurate?

    Best regards,


    They are a Chicago hot dog stand varient. You don't see them much anymore, but at one time, you used to have your choice between "plain or bunch" at some hot dog stands.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #30 - April 26th, 2006, 7:04 am
    Post #30 - April 26th, 2006, 7:04 am Post #30 - April 26th, 2006, 7:04 am
    Cathy, quite a bit has been written here and on the other board, off and on, regarding the origins of the beef stand tamal. The hypothesis that the Chicago product is based on the Mississippi Delta tamal, which is an African American invention based on the tamales of Mexican migrant workers, seems to be borne out in research from John Edge (if I remember correctly), linked recently by Zim.

    It's a stretch to call the reconstituted corn in these tamales "masa." Technically true, but far from the fresh masa one finds in Mexican food here. It is more like grits or polenta, you're right. That's what tamales are like in most of the US, at least until fresh masa is available. The chili is like the chili "sauce" used on some Eastern dogs. No meat, just textured soy, usually.

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