Tamales in Panama are not the same as the Mexican tamales North Americans are used to eating.
Panama vs Mexican Tamales
- Panamanian tamales’s corn meal is much wetter and more flavorful
- Cooked in plantain and bijao leaves, not corn husks.
The first time I had Panamanian tamales I was under-whelmed. I had a real fondness for tamales, Mexican tamales.
Initially, I was not thrilled with the wetness of tamales in Panama. It is definitely more messy to eat than a Mexican tamale. Of course, it didn’t help that whomever had made them had skimped on the chicken. It was mostly cornmeal.
Over the years, I have grown to appreciate how much more flavor the “messy” cornmeal gives to the tamale. They cook the cornmeal in a well-spiced broth which gives it the flavor.
Now, whenever we find someone who is selling tamales we buy a few. We have learned now who puts an adequate amount of chicken in the tamales. And more importantly, who does not. I have never seen a tamale here made of anything but chicken.
I was visiting a family recently and saw these tamales cooking in their back yard (see photo). They made the tamales to feed a work crew at their house.
Making tamales takes quite a bit of work. Most people only make them during the holidays. It is a social activity, like cooking a meal for an American Thanksgiving.
More Info & Recipes
To find out more, Kris of The PanamaAdventure blog, did a great post about tamales. You can find a recipes by using our friend, Google. This recipe uses only simple kitchen utensils.
Please comment below.
We’ve lived in Boquete for 6 years, and only now have tried local tamales. Our neighbour presented us with a few; a relative had made them for the holidays. The first one was shredded pork; the next one, chicken (plenty of chicken, I might add!). Our neighbour wants us to compare what the one(s) made w new corn taste like in comparison to ‘old’ corn, based on the colour of the ties on the leaves. Because I can’t recall which colour means which, I’m not sure! On the pork one, the masa mixture was more grainy, and the chicken one,… Read more »