Bryan Finds His Favorite Tamales in Watts

The trailer for Tamales Elena

The trailer for Tamales Elena

The secret to a great hamburger is the bun, just like bread is to a sandwich. The reason this is important is because it’s the first thing you taste. Tamales are no exception and if you use a good masa and prepare it well, it comes out moist and fluffy.  It’s a different experience than most tamales available in restaurants.

I first became aware of Tamales Elena two years ago. I visited them at the La Mirada DinDinAGoGo truck lot. Based on solid recommendations from others, I purchased 3 dozen to go. After arriving home, I sampled my findings and was astounded at how moist and fluffy the masa was. That experience set the bar much higher for others to match. To date, I have yet to find a masa that is better prepared.

Since then, Tamales Elena stopped making the rounds of the LA County food truck lots. Instead, they reverted back to their original location, the Watts section of LA and I hadn’t made the effort to visit them.

My cousin hosts an annual holiday pot luck and this year I offered to bring tamales again. Because many of them are foodies, I decided to make a special effort and make the trip to Watts.

Tamales Elena does not have a website, their Twitter and Facebook accounts are dormant. I lacked any way to contact them in advance to find out if they would be on the street and whether I could purchase 8 dozen tamales!

I didn't select Tamales Elena for its ambiance!

I didn’t select Tamales Elena for its ambiance! 

I decided to take the chance. When I found them, I walked in dressed in my normal shorts & flip flops, I must have looked out of place. Everyone in the trailer was fixated on what I had to say. In fact, it made me feel like a celebrity.

A single tamal & hot champurrado

A single tamal & hot champurrado

I made the gross error thinking that the tamales were premade and available for sale. The lady that took my order, Teresa, politely told me that it would take 1 to 1 ½ hours to make the tamales.  Since it wasn’t worth driving home and coming right back, I decided to order a single tamal and a cup of champurrado (Mexican hot chocolate). It was the perfect drink for a cold day: rich, thick and accompanied with a stick of Mexican cinnamon. One hour later, they phoned me to say that my order was ready.

Inside the pork and chicken tamales

Inside the pork and chicken tamales

My wife was delighted to see what I brought home. Since they were still warm, we immediately plated them and topped them off with the tomatillo sauce that Tamales Elena gave me. As I remembered, they were still amazingly fluffy and moist. While the pork was our favorite, the chicken was seasoned well and could definitely stand on its own.

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About the Author

Follow Bryan on twitter for the latest and greatest in food trucks and street food. @btsunoda.

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