Colombian Tamales Santandereanos

This past Christmas, hubby and I decided to make this Christmas a Colombian theme since his parents were coming to spend Christmas with us at our place. So, we made what they called traditional Christmas meal, which consists of Colombian Hot Chocolate drink, bunuelos (recipe is coming soon!), and tamales.

This was my first time (well, second time) ever making tamales, I practiced about a week or two before the day. First time I made them, they were too big and too little meat inside. Plus, the consistency of the “masa” was not what I expected. I think the hardest part for me was to find the right consistency of the “masa”. The secret is actually using fat in the “masa”. In Mexican tamales, they use lard… the Colombian tamales use oil.

From a sit down meal to a pit stop for lunch, I think Colombian tamales are amazing tamales, but not like any typical Mexican tamales. They have very appetizing fragrant since each tamale is wrapped in banana leaf, and with the choices are chicken, pork, or chicken and pork.

The tamales that I made come from the region of Santander. In Colombia there are many kinds of tamales depending on the region of the country. For hubby’s family, having tamales for dinner close to midnight, accompanied by hot chocolate drink is a Christmas tradition which later, I found out that it is how it is for many families in Colombia.

Here is the recipe. It has few steps to follow. It makes about 10-15 tamales, depending how big you wrap them. Generally, the tamales are actually easy and fairly simple to make, they are just time consuming. Well, if you are curious to know how they taste (since as I know there are only very few places sell them in the U.S.), give them a try!

10 chicken thighs, shave from the bone
10 pork ribs about the length of your finger with a good amount of meat on them.
1 can garbanzo beans
4 cup “Masarepa” or “ArepaHarina” (extremely fine precooked corn meal – you simply can not use any substitutes here)
5 cup of water/ chicken broth
½ cup to 1 cup of canola oil
1 package frozen banana or platano leaves (latino or asian groceries would have them), thawed and cut into 12 inch square pieces Clean string or cord used for tying.
A very large boiler and lid.
Enough salt to make salted water to boil the tamales in the pot.
Hogao (recipe follows- devide the hogao, one to just enough to marinate the chicken and ribs, and another to put inside the tamales with all the meat)

Recipe for Hogao:
6 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 bunches of green onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup of packed, chopped cilantro
2 tbps butter
salt and pepper to taste

Finely mince all the first four ingredients. Melt butter in the pan, and fry garlic until fragrant. Add the other ingredients and let simmer for at least an hour. There should almost look like salsa because of the tomatoes. When it’s done. Set aside.

Direction for Tamales:
Two or three days before, put the chicken and ribs in a container and marinade them with one part of hogao. With your hands, work the marinade into the meats. Cover and refrigerate until the next day.

Preparation of the “Masa”:
Put “Masarepa” or “ArepaHarina” in a large bowl. Slowly add warm (not hot) water or chicken broth. You probably have to use your hands to mix. Most likely, you will need to add more liquid to get the “masa” to the consistency of cooked oatmeal or grits.

Assembly and cooking of the Tamales:
Place about a size of golf ball of the dough in the center of the banana leaf. Flatten it to about 1/2 inch thick. Place few rib, chicken (don’t be cheap) and 1 tbp garbanzo beans on top. Spoon about 1-2 tablespoons of “hogao” on top of the meat. Then spoon another golf ball size of “masa” on top of all of them, and gently spread as much out as you can.

Fold the edges of the banana leaf over the filling so as to make a package. Try to not let any of the filling show. If the leaf splits, just take another smaller piece of leaf and fold it around the package.

Tie up the package/tamale with a string or cord. Wrap it tightly around the tamale. Continue with the other tamales according to the above directions.

Pour water into a very large pot and salted the water. Stack the tamales all the way to the top in the boiling pot until the water covers them. Turn up the heat to high. When you hear the water boiling furiously, turn the heat down to medium. Cover and boil for 3- 4 hours.

When they are done, unwrap the banana leaves from the tamales before serving. Or, as traditional Colombians would do is to serve the tamales on a section of banana leaf. Either way, it is all good. Enjoy!


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wrapping a tamale in a banana leaf sounds wonderful! I have only made tamales once myself and am a bit scared to try it alone without a cooking class (like before). These look like ones I could handle. Thanks for the recipe!

  2. Those looks super yummy! I have never found a good recipe for chicken tamales but I think I just got one!! I will definitely try making these!! thanks for the lovely post!

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