There are different types of tamales made all over Mexico. Each region has a specialty based on traditions and available local ingredients. Most tamales are made from ground corn that is wrapped in a leaf and steamed or baked, but there are many varieties to choose from.
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The Michoacán region of Mexico makes a special variety of tamale called corundas. Corundas are easily recognizable by their distinctive triangle shape. They are wrapped in long, green corn leaves before steaming. Steaming in the green corn leaf imparts flavor and creates a moisture seal resulting in a more moist tamale. Fillings for corundas include locally grown vegetables and chicken.
There are three major types of tamales from the Yucatán region of Mexico. The most popular is larger than most and baked in large ovens or on the ground. Vaporcitos are another tamale variety; a thin layer of corn dough is smeared on a banana leaf and steamed. The third variety is called tamales colads. They are filled with chicken and tomato, and seasoned with seeds of the achiote plant.
Tamales from the northwestern region of Mexico are made in restaurants, for large communal weekend feasts. These large three- to four-foot tamales are called zacahuiles. Zacahuiles are made with coarsely ground corn dough filled with pork meat and red chilis, wrapped into a banana leaf. They are baked in large, wood-fired ovens that are usually found in restaurants.
San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas
In the mountainous city of San Cristobal de las Casas in the Chiapas region of Mexico, they make a special tamale variety called untados. These tamales are made by filling a banana leaf with finely ground corn dough and stuffing it with pork and a mole sauce. This sauce has over 20 ingredients, including chilis, spices and even chocolate. The sauce gives the tamale a complex spicy flavor.
Tamales from the Oaxaca region of Mexico also employ a regional mole sauce to add complex flavor. These tamales are wrapped in banana leaves and are usually filled with small black beans and an herb called chepil. Oaxaca is know for a few different varieties of mole, including black, green and yellow.
Tamale makers in the Veracruz region of Mexico use a special herb called hoja santa to season their tamales. This aromatic herb has heart-shaped leaves and is used all over Mexico in various dishes. These tamales are wrapped in banana leaves and steamed in large pots. This regional variety is commonly filled with fresh corn, pork or chicken.
The city of Culiacán in the Sinaloa region of Mexico has a tradition of both everyday and special occasion tamales. Smaller tamales are made as snacks and street food. These varieties are usually vegetarian and filled with corn, beans or pineapple. Special large tamales are made for celebrations and parties. They are often filled with chicken or pork and a mix of vegetables.