Celebrating Día de Los Reyes with friends and family

¡Feliz Día de Los Reyes a todos!

We took a long vacation with family for the holidays and part of our trip included a day in Ensenada, located on the West coast of Mexico in the state of Baja California (the northern part of the peninsula, a little more than 70 miles south of Tijuana).

Since we wouldn’t be together on Día de Los Reyes, we found a little rosca to celebrate a few days before. And guess who got el niño Jesus… again. I swear it’s a conspiracy because I get the baby in my piece of cake every single year. The rosca was so small that I didn’t even think there would be a baby inside, but there he was when I broke my piece off. Guess I’ll just have to make tamales for Día de La Candelaria on February 2!

Read more about how we celebrate Día de Los Reyes here on The Other Side of The Tortilla and check out the links below to see how some of our friends celebrate as well. If you haven’t celebrated yet, it’s not too late. Even if you can’t buy a rosca, you can certainly try making one on your own! You can also serve Mexican hot chocolate or champurrado alongside your cake…. 

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Five steps for a successful tamalada

I adore tamales; they remind me of the holidays and various special occasions. When I smell them, I get a warm, fuzzy feeling inside that is hard to explain. No other food gives me the same exact feeling, actually.

There were tamales at my wedding shower in Mexico (called a despedida). There have always been tamales available for birthdays and Christmas and Día de La Candelaria. In fact, on Día de Los Reyes, I’ve had the luck to get the baby Jesus figurine in my piece of Rosca de Reyes several times in the past. As tradition goes, if you get the figurine, you’re responsible for bringing tamales for everyone on Día de La Candelaria. When José’s abuela passed away, everyone came back to the house after the prayer service to have tamales, like she would have wanted us to. They’re a staple and a symbol in Mexican cuisine.

So, it might surprise you to find out that I’ve never before hosted my own tamalada—a tamal-making party. Yes, it’s true. I’ve never hosted one, but I really want to in the coming year! My favorite savory tamales are usually tamales de pollo con salsa verde and when it comes to the sweet variety, un tamal de chocolate makes my mouth water and my heart skip a beat. I’ve made tamales on my own at home but never had a party and invited friends and family to help out and enjoy them with me afterward.

One reason a lot of people don’t make their own tamales at home is because it’s a bit labor intensive. There are several steps to successfully making them, and it’s time-consuming. To make it worthwhile, a tamalada is the perfect solution because everyone gathers together at one place and forms an assembly-line style workforce to get everything finished in less time. Then you can steam them in your tamalera. When they’re done, it’s party time! There’s nothing quite like a freshly-steamed tamal, whether it’s savory or sweet.

Here are the five basic steps for a successful tamalada, according to the advice I’ve received and what I’ve observed, and that I plan to follow when I host mine:

  • Ideally, as a hostess, you’ll have the masa ready in advance. I’m not suggesting you grind your corn from scratch and all that (unless you want to). But for a modern tamalada, it’s perfectly acceptable to buy pre-made masa at a tortillería or grocery store, or use Maseca instant masa without feeling guilty.
  • Every tamal needs a little grasa in the masa! If your tamal is lacking moisture, it might because you didn’t use any manteca. You don’t have to use a lot, but it helps with the consistency and flavor. The best tamales are the ones that have light and fluffy masa that isn’t dry.
  • Depending on which region your tamales come from, you’ll use either cornhusks or banana leaves to wrap them. Either way, they need to be pliable. Cornhusks need to be soaked in water well in advance so they won’t rip. Banana leaves can be heated and soaked, too.
  • You’re going to need a filling (or a few different fillings, depending on how many tamales you plan to made). You can use shredded meats stewed in salsa, vegetables such as rajas or even sweet fillings using fruit (my favorite is strawberry). Make sure your filling isn’t too wet when it comes time to spread it over the masa, or you’ll end up with weird, soggy tamales.
  • Learn how to wrap that tamal up! It’s really easy to learn how to properly fold the cornhusk. You can even find tons of advice on YouTube with how-to videos on the subject. I like to also use a small strip of cornhusk to tie a little bow around the middle to keep the flap closed for steaming. I find that closing it up completely gets the tamal uniformly steamed with no dry spots near the top.

Check out these recipes from Maseca for all kinds of different tamales.

  • Have you hosted a tamalada? Do you have any tips for me?

This is a sponsored post through a campaign with Maseca and Latina Bloggers Connect. Though I am being compensated for participating, all opinions, recipes and stories are my own.

Feliz Día de la Candelaria

Today marks the Catholic holiday of Día de la Candelaria, known as Candlemas in English.

In Mexico, whoever cuts the Rosca de Reyes on Día de Los Reyes and ends up with the baby Jesus figurine is responsible for bringing tamales for everyone on February 2. Several times I’ve gotten the figurine while celebrating Día de Los Reyes with our family in Mexico and always get teased that I’ll have to come back for a visit soon (with tamales in tow).

Today, we’re eating tamales de pollo con mole verde at our house to celebrate. I admit: I bought mine this year from my favorite tamalería, the Tamalli Space Charros. They’ve got a tamal truck and when they stopped near my house the other day, I just couldn’t resist and bought a few for the holiday.

It’s also common in Mexico to enjoy your tamales on Día de la Candelaria with an atole. You can check out my recipe for champurrado for a delicious chocolate atole.

We’re working on a great recipe for tamales in the test kitchen based on a recipe given to us by a friend who grew up along the Texas-Mexico border. Her mother owns a well-known restaurant and one of the cooks there was generous enough to share their recipe with us. We can’t wait to pass it on to you soon!

  • How does your family celebrate Día de la Candelaria? What are your favorite kind of tamales?

Feliz Día de Los Reyes

Feliz Día de Los Reyes and Happy Three Kings Day; today is the holiday known as Epiphany, 12 days after Christmas and the day that the three wise men arrived in Bethlehem with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the baby Jesus.

In Mexico, one of the most common ways to celebrate this holiday is with a rosca de reyes, a sweet yeast-bread adorned with dried or candied fruits that have been soaked in rum or brandy and topped with a buttery and sugary paste akin to the topping on a concha roll.

Baked inside the cake is a tiny baby Jesus figurine, and whoever cuts the piece of cake with the baby Jesus inside is responsible for bringing tamales to the family’s Día de la Candelaria (Candlemas) celebration on February 2. The figurine symbolizes the hiding of the baby Jesus from King Herod’s men. Traditionally, the whole family gathers around the table to cut the cake while sipping on chocolate caliente, each person taking their turn until everyone gets a piece and until the baby Jesus figurine is found.

My favorite Rosca de Reyes (pictured here) comes from a bakery chain called El Globo, which I first got to know in Mexico City. Their traditional rosca is also made in an individual size and this year on my last day in Mexico, my suegra bought me one, wrapped it up and stuck it in my carry-on bag so I’d have a rosca to cut on Día de Los Reyes…. 

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Nacimientos: The tradition of the nativity scene

La Navidad has come and gone but Día de Los Reyes is only a few days away and I realized that we’ve never talked about nacimientos, or nativity scenes, here before! And every nativity scene has Los Reyes Magos, the three kings who brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus on the Epiphany, 12 days after Christmas.

Displaying a nativity scene at home is a storied tradition in Mexico, but nacimientos actually originated in Italy, thanks to Saint Francis of Assisi.

Here are two nacimientos belonging to our family. The figurines on the left are made from hojas de maiz, or corn husks, and belong to my suegra; the one on the right is made of wood with clay figurines and belongs to our Tía Leda.

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