The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Tamales
The mushroom tamales at Hugo's are mind-blowing -- and although they may sound like an upscale spin on Mexican food, they're actually very traditional. Chef Hugo Ortega serves mushroom tamales as a side dish with lamb and makes another kind of mushroom tamale called a zacahuil for an appetizer. The zacahuil is made by layering banana leaves in a clay pot and then baking the tamales inside. Ortega explains that mushrooms are part of the traditional cuisine of Veracruz, Oaxaca, Puebla and Tlaxcala, and that people in these regions have been making mushroom soup, mushroom quesadillas and mushroom tamales for centuries.
They cost a dollar apiece, which may seem expensive -- but the tamales at Doña Tere Tamales aren't your average Tex-Mex version. These are Mexico City-style tamales, and each one is three to four times bigger than the kind we're used to. Chicken with mole and pork with green chile are the best fillings, but sweet tamales with raisins are also popular. If you're eating them for breakfast, bring your own coffee.
1. Alamo Tamale Factory
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
There's a reason Alamo Tamale Factory won the Best of Houston® award for Best Tamales back in 2008: The tamales are pefectly plump and filled with just the right amount of savory pork. The important masa-to-meat ratio is always precise here, with the meat incredibly moist and well-seasoned. You won't need any of the incredibly benign salsa that's served alongside your tamales, owing to the grease that seeps out from the filling (which, at times, can be a little on the heavy side -- but it's a price we're willing to pay).
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