Beefy Red Chile Tamales from The Tamale Store

Tacos may very well be the perfect food, but let's face it, the standard Meximerican fare can get a bit stale after a while. Taco the Town is here to highlight some of the more unusual Mexican finds in the Valley.

This week: Red Chile Tamales from the Tamale Store

¿Como se dice?: The holiday season may have passed, but here in the Valley, tamale season is year round. This past weekend we hit up our local farmers' market and scored one of the biggest, juiciest, and most flavorful tamales we can remember scarfing down in recent memory. The red chile beef tamale from the aptly named Tamale Store was a down-to-earth package of corn husk-wrapped happiness among a sea of bourgeois "artisan" eats. You can keep your lavender scented sugar. We'll take a dozen tamales, please.

La Comida y El Sabor: While we're diehard fans of The Tamale Store's pumpkin tamale, in the gourd off-season we're more than happy to scarf a huge red chile beef tamale. And if you get the tamale "for here" instead of frozen to-go, be a rebel and tell them to go "all the way" with your tamale toppings. Smooth crema, cheddar cheese, salsa and some weird lettuce garnish. On second thought, you might ask them to hold the flavorless iceberg lettuce.

Despite our love of lard-seasoned masa, we have to admit that The Tamale Store's oil-based tamales really hit the spot. The masa was dense and a bit chewy, but yielded without crumbling, and most importantly, it was well-seasoned without eclipsing the corny flavor. (There is some criminally underseasoned masa out there.) The red chile sauce offset the mild masa with a hefty kick of spice, and unlike some Mexican "mystery meat" fillings, the beefy flavor was still discernible and nearly fork tender.

Bring a bit of México to your kitchen: Tamales are an investment and for most of us, the time spend prepping, filling, rolling, and steaming could better be spent eating the actual tamales. (We're all for buying a dozen and topping them with all sorts of delicious ingredients, and when we don't feel like hoofing it all the way out to Cave Creek to hit up the Tamale Store, we just check their online farmers' market schedule.) If you're looking to try your hand at making homemade tamales make sure to check out our Tamales 101 crash course first. It's packed with plenty of tips so you don't end up making a rookie mistake.

Know of any Mexican gems in the Valley? Reveal your family secrets in the comment section.

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Erica O'Neil