Los Portales – Culiacán – Tampiqueña


It was a hot afternoon, and Los Portales felt like an oasis. Not a cool oasis, as the air conditioning consisted of gently blowing fans in an open courtyard, but rather a welcoming, relaxing place to recover from a hard morning of tourism, and to have a lovely meal. Located in an old building in the Centro Histórico, across from the cathedral, the location was perfect.

I was in the mood for meat, so I ordered the Tampiqueña, a common dish in upscale Mexican restaurants that can take many forms, in my experience. Here, it was a lovely piece of thin-cut marinated steak, cooked medium, with all the expected accompaniments… a grilled green onion, guacamole, refried beans with crumbled cheese, and a baked potato. I couldn’t have been happier.


Tinga – Los Angeles – Torta de Salpicon


Ok, I’ll admit that I didn’t know what salpicon was. Here’s what Wikipedia says: Salpicon and salpicón are terms used in French cuisine, Mexican cuisine, Central American cuisine and Colombian cuisine for preparations of one or more ingredients diced or minced and bound with a sauce or liquid. In Mexican cuisine and Central American cuisine, the term refers to a salad mixture containing thinly sliced or chopped flank steak, onion, oregano, chile serrano, avocado, tomatoes, and vinegar. The mixture is commonly served on tostadas, tacos or as a filling of Poblano peppers.

Tinga calls itself an Artisan taquería, but I was in the mood for a torta. Nobody does big, messy sandwiches like the Mexicans.

The salpicon torta at Tinga on La Brea Avenue was shredded braised beef on a beautiful, firm roll, topped with black and refried beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, lettuce and queso fresco, held together by a zesty and vinegary “salsa salpicon.” Perhaps a bit expensive at $12.25, but it was generously large, and absolutely delicious. A watermelon and lemonade agua fresca was a perfect accompaniment.

Here’s the website: http://www.tingabuena.com/homepage.php

Corn and Green Chile Tamales – A Recipe


Tamales have been around for some 10,000 years. The Mayas and Aztecs ate tamales, as did the civilizations that came before them. Here’s a recipe that’s easy to follow, and certain to be delicious:

Flavorful tamales stuffed with sweet corn, cheese and tangy green chile sauce.
Yield: 30-40 tamales


16 oz corn kernels
3 oz. can diced green chiles
4 oz cream cheese (1/2 a standard package)
1/2 cup sour cream or crema
16 oz queso fresco or jack cheese (shredded or crumbled)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon salt
40 Corn Husks
Tamale Dough (Recipe Below)

Prepare the filling
Add the corn and the diced chiles to a large bowl and add in the cream cheese, queso fresco, cumin, chile powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Use a large spoon to smash the cream cheese into the mixture to begin mixing it. I like to just use my hands to squish it all together. Once the filling is made, set it aside. (Note: You can make the filling the day before and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.)
Preparing the Corn Husks
Go through the corn husks removing any debris. Separate the larger usable pieces from the smaller bits and pieces. Save the smaller pieces for later. Go through the corn husks removing any debris. Separate the larger usable pieces from the smaller bits and pieces. Save the smaller pieces for later. Place the husks into a large bowl. Cover husks with warm water. Set a heavy item (like a heavy bowl or mug) on top of the husks to keep them submerged. Remove the husks from the water and pat dry. Place into a covered dish or a large plastic bag to prevent from drying out. Use only the larger and medium sized husks for the tamales. The smaller ones can be used later for ties or patches. When looking at the husk, notice the shape. They have a narrow end, a broad end, and two long sides.

Masa Harina Tamale Dough
6 cups masa harina
5 cups warm water or low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups lard
3 tablespoon onion powder
2 tablespoon cumin
3 tablespoon chile powder
2 teaspoons salt

In a mixing bowl combine masa and warm water or broth until combined. Let the mixture sit for 20 minutes or so to let the masa soften. Then mix it on low speed until a dough forms. After the Masa Harina is prepared, gradually add in the salt, cumin and onion powder by sprinkling them over the dough as you mix it. In a separate bowl, whip lard or shortening about three minutes or until fluffy. Add the lard to the dough a little at a time while mixing until well combined. The mixture should be about the consistency of peanut butter. If not, add more masa harina, water or broth as necessary.
Assembling the Tamales
Lay a husk on a flat surface. Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of dough onto the husk, depending on the size of the husk. Use the back of a metal spoon to spread the dough onto the husk. When spreading the dough, leave a space of about 4 inches from the narrow end of the husk and about 2 inches from the other end. Spread the dough to the edge of one of the long sides and 2 inches away from the other long side. Try to keep the dough approximately 1/4 inch thick. Spread a couple of spoonfuls of filling down the center of the dough, leaving at least one inch of dough around the sides. Locate the long side with a 2 inch space with no masa. Fold that over, slightly overlapping the other side so the edges of the dough meet. Wrap the extra husk around the back. Then fold the broad end over the top and then the longer narrow end over the broad end. Create strips of husk by cutting or tearing 1/4 inch lengths off of some of the smaller or unusable husks. Use these to tie across the middle of the tamale to hold the flaps down. Set tamales upright in a steamer. You can buy large steamers made just for this purpose. You may have something else you can use to create the same effect. The key is to have a small amount of boiling water on the bottom of the pot and a colander or mesh of some sort to keep the tamales away from the water. Steam for about 90 minutes and let them cool before serving.

Making Tamales is easy once you get the hang of it. It may take you a little longer to make the first few, but after you learn the ropes, you’ll have a whole batch ready in no time.

Here’s the website: http://mexicanfood.about.com/od/tamales101/r/Corn-And-Green-Chile-Tamales.htm