The question around town is: "Where can I get some homemade tamales?"
For a great many Texans, tamales are a necessity of the holiday season. But the tamales you buy in the grocery store are usually disappointing. And while we all love the giant dollar a piece tamales at Doña Tere, they aren't the kind of Tex-Mex tamales most of us grew up with. Seems like tamale ladies used to be everywhere this time of the year, selling aluminum foil-wrapped bundles for six or eight bucks apiece. But I haven't seen any tamale vendors on the street this year. Where did they all go anyway?
Well I finally figured it out.
In a word, Craigslist.
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Where do go to look for a used barbecue smoker? Or a second hand lawnmower? Craigslist of course. I searched the term "tamales" on the Houston page of Craigslist the other day -- and what to my wondering eyes should appear but a whole bunch of ads placed by homemade tamale makers. The prices ranged from 6 bucks a dozen to 12 bucks a dozen and most of them offered delivery to your front door within 24 hours. I immediately e-mailed a tamale maker and ordered two dozen.
Homemade pork tamales for $7 bucks a dozen were delivered to my door within 5 hours.
The guy who came to the door told me he lived in my neighborhood and said he and his wife were retired and they made tamales for a hobby. The tamales were exceptionally meaty and very spicy. I wouldn't have minded a little more manteca in the masa. The only problem I ran into was that two of the tamales had some undercooked spots were the masa was still raw. An easy flaw to fix if you steam the tamales a little when you heat them up. They were good enough to order again, but I think I'll try some of the other tamale makers on Craigslist first -- there were quite a few.