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Guatemalan Tamales

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I sampled my first rice tamal last week. It reminded me of Biba's slogan, "one's a meal." The soft glutinous ground rice was stuffed with chicken and salsa and garnished with green pepper and a raisin. I had it for breakfast with a cup of coffee and a little extra pepper sauce. The Guatemalan woman who gave it to me told me she made four kinds of tamales -- masa, rice, potato and sweet corn. She sells these giant tamales to friends for $2.50 each.

There are hundreds of varieties of tamales in Guatamala including red tamales (with achiote), black tamales (with chocolate) and sweet dessert tamales, usually made with sweet corn or elote and fruits or nuts. Tamales flavored with chepil (chiplin) and lorocco are also common.

There is a joke in Guatemala about an American eating a banana leaf-wrapped tamale for the first time. "It tasted great, but the lettuce sure was chewy," is the clueless gringo's punch line.

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