There is a distinct texture and flavor difference between Salvadorian tamal’s and Mexican Tamale’s even though both are made with corn masa.
The Salvadorian tamal’s have a rich brothy savory flavor and the texture is somewhat like a congealed thick rich corn pudding filled with pulled chicken, potatoes and chickpeas and olives. They also have a distinct flavor from the banana leaves. These tamals are almost like a masa souffle-like texture!
The Mexican Tamale’s are prepared from a raw corn dough made of corn treated with lime, lots of delicious pork fat and leavening and are usually wrapped in corn husks, the Salvadorian one’s are prepared with a dough that is pre-cooked, with a type of sofrito called “recaudo”, and are wrapped in pre-cooked banana leaves.
Either way there is a lot of preparation that goes into both styles of these delicious little “meat pies”. So, set aside a day to do nothing else but make these. Rounding up a few friends would be a good idea too as it is always more fun to do this kind of mass production work with a glass of wine, great friends, and a lot of laughter.
Please follow the directions here explicitly when making the masa dough and in the cooking and cooling instructions to avoid failure!!
Jocelyne and I were running into some problems understanding some of the recipes on the internet and consulted a chef we know in Boulder, Colorado who makes hundreds of these each week for his restaurant Pupusa Sabor Hispano. He assured us we were doing everything correctly until we got to the final step! Without that consultation we still might be trying to figure out the recipe!
Since we were preparing these for our monthly 4-Course dinner and had 18 guests coming to that dinner we bought 20 Salvadorian Chicken Tamals from Pupusa Sabor Hispano as a back up for that dinner in case the ones we were making did not work out!! We were NOT going to let those guests down!
So, make lots of these, freeze them and pop them in boiling water for 20 minutes or so to reheat them and you will be rewarded with a great tamal some night when you are tired and hungry! That is the reward for making several dozen at one time
Salvadorian Pulled Chicken Tamals with Mole Verde Sauce
Masa Dough Ingredients
5 cups masa flour for tamal’s (be sure it says this on the bag)
7-8 c water
10 c chicken stock (use reserved stock from poaching the chicken, see recipe below)
1 1/2 c ricaudo sofrito sauce (see recipe below)
Masa Dough Instructions
This is a critical step and following the directions is critical to having a great outcome!
You will need a really large pot for this that is deep.
Place the 5 cups of masa flour in the pot. Slowly add the cold water until the mixture is like a smooth pancake batter consistency. You can use a hand mixer to mix this mixture, or a stick blender, or you can do it with a whisk by hand. It will take a while by hand to get rid of any clumps. The cold water is key here during this stage. If you added the chicken stock now and it was warm or hot it would make the masa dough cook into clumps.
Put the pot on medium high heat and add the chicken stock until the mixture starts boiling. When it begins to boil add the Ricaudo Sofrito Sauce and salt. Stir the mixture in one motion scraping the bottom. This process will take about 30 minutes to cook the masa and it is critical that you stir constantly otherwise it will clump.
Make sure the masa dough tastes good and has enough salt.
Remove from the heat. Place a sheet of parchment over the top of use plastic wrap and push it down till it touches the masa so a skin will not form.
Do Not Stir during this resting time! Be patient. Let the dough rest for about 30 minutes. Once it has cooled a bit you can begin to use it to make the tamals. The dough will still be warm.
Ricaudo Sofrito Ingredients
1/4 c olive oil
1 onion, diced fine
1/2 red pepper, diced fine
1/2 green pepper, diced fine
6- 8 large Roma tomatoes, quartered, seeds removed, diced fine
3-4 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 bay leaves
1 T chicken stock base, or 1 tsp chicken bouillon powder
1 tsp salt
1 T achiote paste
1/2 tsp dried mexican oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried coriander
4 cups water
Ricaudo Sofrito Instructions
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and cook until transparent. Stir frequently so the onions do not stick or brown. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until the tomatoes break down and are soft.
Add all ingredients to a blender and process until the ingredients are pulverized and the sauce is thick and smooth.
Note: not all blenders are made to handle hot liquids so please read you blender instructions to avoid getting burned and having the lid blow off during the processing of the hot liquids.
Pulled Chicken Poaching Ingredients
4-5 # chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
10 c water in large stock pot
2 onions, peeled and cut in quarters
3 stalks celery, cut in large pieces
1 bay leaf
2 large carrots, cut in large pieces
Pulled Chicken Filling Ingredients
Shredded chicken from above
1 14.5 oz can chickpeas, drained
4 medium yukon potatoes, skins removed, 1/4″ diced, boiled
2 T salt
1/2 c parsley, washed, and chopped fine
Pulled Chicken Poaching Instructions
Put all of the ingredients in a large stock pot. Heat on medium high heat until the water comes to a slow boil, turn heat down to medium and cook until the chicken reaches 160 degrees. Use a meat thermometer to test temperature. Remove any scum from the top of the water as the chicken cooks so the stock will be clear.
Remove the chicken pieces to cool. Strain the vegetables from the stock and reserve stock for the masa dough preparation.
When the chicken is cool enough to handle, use two forks to shred the meat. Add 2 1/2 c of the ricaudo sofrito sauce to the meat. Add the chickpeas, potatoes, salt and parsley and set aside.
Tamal Assembly Ingredients
2 lbs of banana leaves, rinsed and patted dry, cut into 12 inch squares
1 roll aluminum foil or sheets of pre-cut aluminum foil in 12 inch squares
1 large canning pot or very large stock pot
Tamal Assembly & Cooking Instructions
Lay a sheet of aluminum foil down. Place a banana leaf on top of the aluminum foil sheet.
Place about 3/4 c of masa in the center of the banana leaf. Add about 1/3 c chicken filling and top with 1/4 cup of masa. The chicken filling won’t be completely covered.
To fold: Bring the top edge and bottom edge of the banana leaf square over the center of the masa/chicken mixture and fold both edges over together. Keep folding the banana leaf down toward the masa/chicken mixture until you have formed a package. Then carefully fold the right and left sides of the banana leaf toward the center to make kind of an eggroll shape or package.
Now you are ready to wrap the aluminum foil around the banana leaves doing the same process beginning with the top and bottom edges to form a package around the tamal.
When you are ready to bring the right and left edges in just take the ends and tightly roll them toward the end of the tamal.
Cooking the Tamals
Heat a canning pot 3/4 full of water to boiling. Add the tamal packages. Lower the heat to a slow simmer. We started the water out on high, add the tamals and turned the heat down to around medium low. The tamals will need to be in the simmering water for 2 hours.
The next step is critical to having a successful outcome
Remove the tamals from the water using some tongs or a long bladed metal spatula. Stand them up in a large bowl so any water that has collected between the aluminum foil and banana leaves will drain out. We unrolled one of the side ends of the tamals so the water could easily come out. Let the cool in the bowl for about 15 minutes. During this time remove any water from the bottom of the bowl that collects. Be careful to not burn yourself!
After 15 minutes or so. Remove the Tamals from the bowl and lay out on a counter to further cool. Once they are at room temp you can put them in the refrigerator to get cold.
The next day you can bag them and freeze them.
To reheat the tamals just heat some water up to boiling if they are frozen. Drop them in the boiling water for about 20 minutes to reheat then serve them with your favorite sauce.
If you want to put a few in the refrigerator right after making them and eat them in a day or so you can remove the aluminum foil wrapper and just lay the tamal with the banana leaf still surrounding the tamal and microwave them for a minute or so to heat them. Or you can just drop reheat them while they still have the aluminum foil wrapper around them in boiling water for a few minutes.
Mole Verde Sauce Ingredients
15 roasted green chilies, with the seeds and stems removed, diced fine
1 onion, diced fine
1 T olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, diced fine
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 ounce Mole Verde Spice from Savory Spice Shop, (optional)
Salt to taste
2 T lime juice
Water to just cover the above ingredients.
**If you want to save this step you could just purchase some great green chili like the 505 brand and use it instead of making this sauce.
Mole Verde Sauce Instructions
In a large skillet heat the olive oil and add the diced onions. Sweat the onions until transparent. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until the chilies and onions are soft.
Put the sauce in a blender and process until well combined. Please see the above Note in the Ricaudo Sofrito instructions about processing hot liquids in you blender.
To Serve the Tamals
Remove the hot tamal from the banana leaf and place on a plate. Spoon a little of the Mole Verde Sauce over the tamal. You can sprinkle a little cheese over the top of you would like.
We had left over chicken filling that we used as a garnish on top and did not use any cheese.