Gallery: Snapshots from the Tamale Festival in San Antonio

Tamales 101
Tamales 101

Dried ground corn is mixed with fat (oftentimes lard), then shaped and wrapped with corn husks. (In other words: corn, in corn, sometimes stuffed with more corn.) But fillings abound – everything from pork, chicken, beef, barbacoa, to sweet dessert tamales.

Corn Husks
Corn Husks

Another style of wrapping, with corn husks.

Banana Leaves
Banana Leaves

Banana leaves are used, too.

My favorite masa of the festival
My favorite masa of the festival

You're looking at it. These tamales were from Johnny Hernandez, chef of La Gloria located on the edge of the Pearl complex. His masa mixture was the lightest and creamiest I’ve ever tasted.

Bean-filled tamale
Bean-filled tamale

Also from Chef Hernandez, a bean-filled tamale. The black beans were smooth and rich, pureed so well that they almost reminded me of the sweetness and denseness of an adzuki bean filling in Asian desserts.

Chicken tamale
Chicken tamale

Also from La Gloria, a chicken tamale. Here especially you can see the pointillist style of masa.

Another tamale
Another tamale

A more traditional tamale from the contest. Finely shredded and fatty pork, a tight masa dough.

And another one...
And another one...

Another good one. The pork here you can see is not as shredded here. Which did I like better? Hard to say. It’s like the difference between rillete and stew meat – both are good, in different ways.

Pineapple tamale
Pineapple tamale

This came from the sweet tamale category.

Thanksgiving tamale
Thanksgiving tamale

This one fell into the wildcard category. The creator’s intent was to make a tamale that “tasted just Thanksgiving.” I was expecting the turkey, the celery, even the cranberries but not the hit of gravy, which seemed to infuse the masa. One of the judges said, “Is it wrong that I like this so much?”

"Turtle" tamale

A “turtle” tamale, another one from the wildcard category. Pecans, chocolate sauce. (Is it wrong that I liked this so much?)

Spanakopita, meet tamale.
Spanakopita, meet tamale.

One of the more delicate tamales I tasted, with spinach and cheese.

Cheffy tamale
Cheffy tamale

The tamale offering from the CIA at Pearl. The cheffiest tamale of the bunch.

The Pearl
The Pearl

Festive, no? Held on what was once the site of the Pearl Brewery, now home to the CIA and dozens of restaurants and shops.

$1 per tamale
$1 per tamale

It was an affordable festival. One dollar a pop.

Sopes
Sopes

The lone sopes stand at the festival. Corn cakes get their crispy surface from a slow frying on a paella pan-like griddle.

Shrimp Sopes
Shrimp Sopes

Sopes topped with plenty of shrimp. People were lining up for this one, maybe the folks who didn’t care for tamales. (I know, hard to imagine that such a person exists.)