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Tamaly Shop

If you are familiar with any Vancouver Foodster events, you know he hosts some unique experiences, and the latest is no exception. This was the Art, Eat and Sip Mount Pleasant, the self-directed tour. Five stops combining food and drink in a unique way.

I attended as a VIP and my experience included a special behind the scenes experience, where we learned how to make authentic tamales from the Tamaly Shop, the only restaurant in the city dedicated to this authentic foodstuff.

Our evening began in their back alley, with an invitation to enter through their rear entrance door. And here began their “Corn and Cacao: a magical night of exquisite flavours, beautiful art, and culture transitions” experience. The highlight was learning how to make our own tamales from scratch.

But first we were greeted by the artist who created the paintings that lined the back corridor that we were gathered in (hence the need to enter from the back). As she spoke about the pieces she created specifically for the event, we nibbled on cocoa nibs imported from the highlands of Mexico. The paintings and the cocoa were tied together by the legends of the Mayans and the Aztecs. Recalling the feathered serpent deity and how they thought the people to make seeds into chocolate through roasting and grinding.

Now inspired, it was our turn to get roasting and grinding. Each participant was given a traditional apron to wear and we were led to the kitchen by the staff dawning traditional costumes themselves.

They spoke to the history and how the organic corn they use is sourced locally in BC. Delivered dried, the kernels are washed, cooked in water, then drained when it is time to make them into tamales.

The traditional method of grinding down the corn used serrated stones. Stones pushed and rubbed together with man power. Today, they had a machine that was able to do it in 10 seconds.

The corn goes in and out comes a paste. This is the base of your tamales, like what rice is to Chinese style zhongzi (referencing and comparing to what I know). What flavours the tamale depends on your filling. We were given the option of cheese, pork with salsa verde, black bean, and chicken with mole.

Starting with a clean sheet of corn husk, you take a quarter of a handful of the ground corn paste and form it into a ball. Using your palm you flatten it out over the bottom half of the husk sheet, along the side that widens out.

Next comes the filling. We had the option to have them as is, or mix and match. The goal is to not put too much in, so that it can be rolled into the corn paste seamlessly. You do this by holding on to either ends of the husk and folding them inwards so that the ends of the flattened out circle meet and overlap. You then fold the husks in the same fashion to “wrap” your tamale. Finishing it by folding down the pointed end. The wide end should be opened and the tamale itself exposed.

Next comes the steaming. To cook each tamale in full it takes 60 minutes. When done, the result is a portable snack, best described as a protein bar given how hearty and filling each is.

After this class I have a new found appreciation for tamales. The workmanship and time that goes into each.

So save your time and visit the Tamaly Shop to purchase your tamales premade and ready to eat. They have some modern takes like the Birria tamale with a pulled lamb filling and dipping sauce. The flavour comes from the beef dip.

They also do dessert tamales with sweeter fillings like Chocolate, Blackberry, and Pineapple.

Tamaly Shop
2525 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5T 3E5
(604) 369-3446

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