So first let’s talk masa, the key ingredient for tamales, there are many types of masa, and depending on what you want your filling to be and what type of tamale you are making you will pick a masa.
In this website/ebook we will learn my favorite ones and the ones I use the most: Mexican Masa Preparada, Southamerican cooked masa, and Bollo Masa. Aside these three masas we will explore dessert tamales and other whimsical tamales, but the 3 mentioned above are the main ones I use and combine with all kinds of fillings.
Mexican Masa Preparada
This would be the most known and popular here in the united states when you think of tamales. In order to make this recipe you will need to buy “fresh masa” as the main ingredient, you cannot make this recipe with any other type of masa, such as maseca (Maiz flour). The most challenging part of this recipe is finding fresh masa, depending on where you live, this might be hard or easy. It is an ingredient that you can find in most Mexican markets.
When you find it most likely they will have two kinds Masa Preparada (prepared masa) and Masa sin Preparar (unprepared masa). Most of the our recipes will use unprepared masa, because the prepared masa has been already mixed with salt, stock, lard and other ingredients. This is fine and convenient, but what’s the fun in that? When working with an unprepared masa you get to mix and add flavor, control salt, use the type of stock that works for you as well as the type of fat you prefer, so you get more control over the final product, and is really easy to prepare the masa, all you need is a good electric stand in mixer
South American Cooked Masa
This one is very different that the Mexican masa, I came up with this recipe by mixing two of my favorite recipes from two of my favorite tamales, Ecuadorian hayacas and cuban tamales. The recipe is very simple, the only challenging part is the stirring, you have to stir and stir until the masa starts to come together and depending on how much you are making this can be quite the arm work out, make sure to use a thick wooden spoons, and switch arms! I’ve actually broken several wooden spoons while doing this, so I have a mega thick one that I use when I am mixing a big batch of this masa, and if I get tired I get my hubby to help me.
The nice thing about this masa is that you can taste it as you stir it and adjust the flavor, add more salt if you want it more savory, or more sugar if you want it more on the sweet side, you can also add a bit more stock if you feel it a bit crumbly in your mouth, it is very foolproof and delicious, you can see on my videos what it looks like when is ready.
Bollo (Boyo) Masa
This one will be the most different, exotic and unique masa, and unless you are from Ecuador or have visited my country you’ve probably never had anything like it. It is also new for me, I’ve eaten bollos all my life and they are my very favorite tamal, but I’ve always been intimidated by them and had never made them, until my last visit to Ecuador when I finally started asking at the vendors that sell them at the beach how they made it, after interviewing a few of them, I worked up the courage and came back determined to nail this masa, and now I can make bollos whenever I crave them.
This masa is made of plantains and peanuts. The plantains are grated then pureed, a sofrito is cooked then added with some water, lots of mixing and tasting involved. The traditional filling for this tamal is albacore, but you can pretty much try any seafood you’d like and I don’t see a reason why not to use beef or chicken, so also very versatile, I stick to the albacore because it is my favorite.
Yes this a very hearty masa, and usually one tamal made of this masa will be plenty, but if you eat more I won’t judge.