The Tamale Safari has bagged it’s first catch at La Indiana Tamales in East L.A.
Here’s how it went:
Scene: Magda and Rosemary grabbing a booth in the dark corner of Jim’s Burgers to eat their Tamales.
Magda: She’s eyeing us now.
Rosemary: I know.
M: Like “Why do they need forks?” So let’s just stay cool until she leaves.
M: OK. She turned the corner.
R: If we’re doing a taste test… What did you get?
M: I got one of each.
R: OK. You’re smarter than I am.
M: I got one chicken, one beef, one Elote…
R: Oh boy!
M: …one, um, pork, and I then got a chile relleno because I wanted to try it.
R: OK, I’ll help you taste yours and then I’ll give you mine back.
M: OK, coast is clear.
R: Now, are we recording?
M: Oh, I’ve been recording since we got here.
M: So, um
R: Take the chicken out?
M: OK, and I’ll take a beef? Oh wow, they’re labeled.
R: Yeah, chicken.
M: Wait, hold on let’s take a picture of that.
M: Oh no. This is pork. Carne de res? *
M: This is good, but you know, I don’t think they use lard… I think they use vegetable shortening.
M: They say pork is their specialty.
M: Look, they had these wrappers specially printed.
R: Look at the size of this thing!
M: It’s what… only a dollar forty?
R: Yes. Oh they stay together, nicely.
M: Here take some of the pork.
M I didn’t know if you were a “Pork person.”
M: Lots of filling.
R: The masa is perfect. Light, but it’s firm.
M: It’s funny, because the weight of the package was so heavy that… yeah, the masa is really good. Next year, let’s get our masa here. **
R: It has a nice cohesive flavor.
M: I like that there’s lots of filling.
R: Look at the size of the chicken chunks.
M: Sometimes you just get nothing but masa. I hate that.
R: I know. This is nicely filled.
M: So now we know why people line up for these on christmas.
M: I like the red chile on the side.
R: Try this one. (Referring to green salsa)
M: Is it worth it to go back and buy a tub of that?
R: Except for the fact that I made a large basin of it.
M: You made green chile?
R: Yeah, we’ll never get through it.
R: Boy, it’s hard to start off with a 5-star tamale.
M: Well, I am pretty sure that we’ll have plenty of chances to be disappointed.
* Carne de Res is actually beef, not pork. Magda’s Spanish leaves much to be desired. Truthfully, when meat is mixed with red chile sauce, it all tastes the same.
** Magda and Rosemary make killer tamales every christmas.
La Indiana’s is a typical family-operated Mexican deli found in many areas on the east side of town. They specialize in tamales and masa and carry a few more essential mexican staples like tortillas, spices, mexican candy, and paletas but the main draw is the tamales. The selection includes, Pork, Beef, Chile & Cheese, Elote, Chicken, and sweet tamales.
The place is very small and all orders are take-out only. They also have an online order form where you may place your order at least a day ahead of time. In addition to tamales La Indiana’s also make chile rellenos and gorditas.
Prices range from $1.40 each to $8.40 per half-dozen and $16.50 per dozen.
La Indiana Tamales is located right off the Santa Ana Freeway on Indiana street.
La Indiana Tamales
1142 S. Indiana Street,
Los Angeles Ca 90023
M & R’s reviews and ratings:
As Magda said, we wanted to start out big. And there we were, at Indiana’s Tamales….and what I would certainly refer to, based on reputation, ground zero for Los Angeles Tamales.
On a non-descript corner of East LA, this tamale store is friendly, accessible and certainly digital friendly, once I showed them my PayPal receipt on my iPhone for my online purchases, they produced a written receipt for me to sign and handed over my still warm tamales & Chile Rellenos.
And so we looked for a place to indulge. That part was tricky. We ventured across the street to Jim’s Burgers and Magda secured a booth in the back while I ordered a couple of drinks to legitimize our visit.
Once settled, we pulled out 2 wonderfully warm, fragrant but greasy packages of heaven. We tasted the Pork (their specialty) and the chicken tamales. They come neatly wrapped with a wax paper wrapping noting the flavor. Once unwrapped, we were impressed with the size of the tamale -definitely falling under the “hungry man” serving.
The masa was firm but tender, holding its shape nicely. The filling was distinguishable…I liken tamales to salad instead of soup: you want all your ingredients to be separate and visual…it enhances the flavor when the combined effect melts in your mouth. And these did. Large pieces of meat. Vegetables including peas, corn and peppers. This is why I live in LA. When you can find a perfect tamale on your first outing, you know your city is good.
La Indiana definitely lived up to its reputation for excellent tamales. The balance between masa and filling was just about right. I could actually use a tad less masa, but the texture and flavor was so good I’ll let it slide.
Aside from the tamales we tasted onsite, I also tried their other fillings at home. All but the elote*** were excellent and I think my favorites were the Chile & Cheese (Pictured on the right.)
***Elote tamales seem to be an acquired taste. They are basically mounds of masa that have been combined with sweet corn kernels (I think.) Not my cup of tea…
Firm but tender, evenly steamed and holds its shape.
Delicious. Fresh, perfectly cooked and spiced just right. A little greasy, but nothing to be afraid of.
Nicely wrapped with flavor noted on wax paper.
Parking issues on busy days: 3 lot spaces and the rest is street parking. I’ve heard stories of eager tamale eaters parking 10 blocks away on Christmas Eve.
Masa: Nice texture and flavor. Some of the tamales had slightly too much masa for my tastes.
Filling: Good flavor overall for both red and green chile tamales. Not too spicy but they did have a slight kick. Loved the Chile & Cheese tamales.
Love the printed paper wrappers. The outside was a bit greasy, though.
Parking is terrible. They only have a small 3-car capacity lot and street parking is rough.