Tamale Safari

Eating our way through every darn tamale in Southern California (and the world?)

Tag: tamales (page 2 of 2)

Porto’s Bakery; I’ll have a tamale with that tiramisu

Today we dished it up Cuban style with a trek to Porto’s Bakery in Glendale, California.

M & R’s Rants, Raves, & Ratings

Rosemary

I guess it’s NOT always about the heat. At least when you are talking Tamales. Porto’s delivers a succulent, warm and “mashed potato” fuzzy Tamale that hits the spot without the spice. The Masa has a wonderful fluffy texture that melts nicely with the rich pork filling.

The hefty portion is savory, and definitely falls into the “comfort food” zone of pure pleasure. Go for the Tamale and stay for the dessert. And don’t be intimidated by the crowds. The staff is pleasant and efficient and as Magda noted, could teach the TSA a thing or two about processing long lines of people.

Magda
Portos’s Bakery is probably the last place you’d think of to get a tamale, but don’t be fooled by the racks of custard filled pastries, cakes and decadent desserts, they make a mean cuban tamale.

Cuban tamales are rolled mounds of masa piled with pulled pork and steamed in a cornhusk. It’s sort of like an inside out tamale. Ordinarily I don’t like tamales that are heavy on the masa but Porto’s flavors their masa to perfection. The texture of the masa is also light and airy and doesn’t leave you with that heavy filling. This is good because you will definitely want to try at least one of their desserts.

Two for two. Macaroons and coconut glazes.

We tried the coconut glaze balls (at 80 cents each how can you refuse?) I also had a side salad with raspberry dressing and a can of my favorite Peruvian Inka Kola.

Porto’s Bakery has 3 locations in Los Angeles county and they are huge establishements that are always crazy busy. Think of LAX with a more efficient crowd control system and you have a good idea of what Porto’s is like. The staff is always so well mannered and efficient despite the masses pressed against the display cases. None of the young staff there ever write down orders. How do they remember everything? I’d love to learn how they’re trained.

This was my third visit to Porto’s Bakery. Everything on the menu is a winner.

Rosemary Rates:

Masa: Rich, savory. I’m not even going to complain about the lack of spiciness.

Filling: The Cuban equivalent of Mac and Cheese. Perfect comfort food richness.

Presentation: Tied up in nicely in a cross length double wrapped corn husk.

Location: Easy parking at the Glendale location. Porto’s is loud, noisy and bustling with diners competing for a table. This is a 2 person job: one to order, the other to scout for a place to sit -and well worth the effort.

Pork Tamale revealed

Magda Rates:

Masa: Very tasty and flavored with the meat sauce. Moist, yet flakey.

Filling: Delicious pork filling. This is the only kind they sell and I could use a tiny bit more filling per tamale but it’s not a big gripe because they are so good.

Presentation: Each tamale is wrapped in doubled corn husks and tied neatly with string. This isn’t a restaurant so you’re stuck with plastic plates and forks.

Location: Southern California is a sprawl so be prepared for a longish drive if you do not live in the vicinity. There is plenty of free or nearly free city-run parking. Porto’s bakery is huge. All 3 locations are massive, well-run wonders so don’t be intimidated by the crowds. These people know how to serve you quickly.

Porto’s Bakery is located on three large sites in Burbank, Glendale, and Downey in Southern California. It is primarily a take-out bakery but they also serve sandwiches, and other savory dishes onsite. Seating is plentiful at all locations. Each site also includes a party planning department and they specialize in cakes for special occasions.

Porto’s Glendale is located at 3614 West Magnolia Boulevard, Burbank, CA‎
See their website for other locations: portosbakery.com
(818) 846-9100‎

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The hunt begins at La Indiana Tamales

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.
Both: Laughter.
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? *
R: Well?
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.
R: Absolutely.
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:

Rosemary:
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.

Magda:
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…

Rosemary rates:

Masa:
Firm but tender, evenly steamed and holds its shape.

Filling:
Delicious. Fresh, perfectly cooked and spiced just right. A little greasy, but nothing to be afraid of.

Presentation
Nicely wrapped with flavor noted on wax paper.

Location
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.

Magda rates:

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.

Presentation:
Love the printed paper wrappers. The outside was a bit greasy, though.

Location:
Parking is terrible. They only have a small 3-car capacity lot and street parking is rough.

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