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'Tis the season for tamales

The Food Dude shares information and ideas on making tamales a part of your gift-giving tradition.
by Dave Cathey Published: December 4, 2012

But it's the recado that really drives the flavor. Just like the chirmol that makes the Huevos Motulenos sing, the recado in the tamales creates a depth of flavor not common to tamale fillings. Order tamales at Pepe Delgado's, 786 Asp Ave. in Norman, on a Friday, and you'll get a tamale done perfectly: simple masa, simple filling, covered in a spicy, bold red chile sauce. Perfection. The Guatemalan tamale at Cafe Kacao is the inverse, dominant sauce in the center.

“Our tamales are more of an entree,” Luidgi Del Cid said. “Tamales are usually pretty small, like a snack or a side dish.”

So, when ordering from Cafe Kacao, keep in mind you don't need to plan for at least three tamales for everyone on your delivery list.

Somewhere between the tamales at Pepe Delgado's and Cafe Kacao are those you find at Zarate's, 706 S Broadway in Edmond. Owner Jorge Zarate is a native of Peru, and the version he sells in bulk this time of year have corn masa but are wrapped in banana leaves. The filling is rich and spicy, and sauce is optional. But if you've ever had any of the Peruvian sauces at Zarate's, it's really not optional at all.

The nice thing about bulk ordering tamales from any of these places, is that it's an opportunity to sit down to a great meal when you make your pickup. When I worked in Norman from 1997 to 2003, we ate at Pepe Delgado's every Friday. Every Friday. All of them. Sometimes we ate there earlier in the week, too, but that never precluded our Friday visit.

I've said before Cafe Kacao and the nearby Guatemalan eatery Cafe Antigua, 1903 N Classen Blvd., serve the best breakfast in town for my money. Cafe Kacao is planning some big changes come February, adding dinner service and a full bar. Veronica turns out tasty, beautiful foods for breakfast and lunch right now, so this addition is a major coup for Oklahoma City diners.

Whether you decide to go with old standby tamales or something different, these traditional holiday treats will not fail to put you on the nice list of anyone you deliver them to.