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Fresh, authentic tamales on the Southwest Side

Friday, March 02, 2007

Tamales can be found at just about any decent Mexican restaurant-- the freshest, most authentic tamales in town are at Manolo's Tamales, where they offer two distinctive types-- along with some addictive Mexican hot chocolate to keep you warm.

It is an assembly line with delicious precision. A half-dozen women, all focused on one thing: making tamales. At the tiny, family-run Manolo's Tamales on the Southwest Side, they routinely crank out hundreds of the namesake product everyday.

"The banana leaf has wet masa and the traditional tamales has dry masa," said Manuel Chabarin, Manolo's Tamales.

The masa - or corn dough - also has a little lard for extra flavor. In the regular tamale, it is slathered inside a corn husk, then filled with chicken, pork or beef in either a red or green salsa.

"Green sauce with chicken and pork, its the best. The green has jalapeno pepper and tomatillo...and red sauce has guajillo pepper."

The Oaxacan version has a wetter masa dough, and is tucked into large banana leafs. The tamales are steamed in giant pots, then served immediately, although they can also be taken home and frozen.

To go along with your tamales, try one of their hot, homemade drinks. Champurrado is essentially a Mexican hot chocolate. In a giant pot, they combine Abuelita chocolate, along with large stalks of cinnamon and a little flour-water mixture just to thicken it up. A healthy dose of sugar provides the necessary sweetness. Another drink, called atole, is just as sweet, but has the addition of rice, giving the drink a bit of texture.

"We have a champurrado, its like hot chocolate. We have atole de guayaba and we have atole con leche, made with rice. The drinks are hot and the winter is cold, and we need something hot."

"Although the recipes may be from Guerrero, Mexico, there are few things better on a cold Chicago winter afternoon than a hot plate of tamales and a steaming cup of champurrado. In Gage Park - on the city's Southwest side - Steve Dolinsky, ABC 7 News."

The weekends are busiest at Manolo's, so if you have a big order, best to call ahead.

Manolo's Tamales
5341 S. Kedzie Ave.
773-436-7029

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