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Prep 2 hrs 20 mins
Cook 1 hr
The people in southern Mexico often wrap their tamales in banana leaves instead of corn husks, first wilting the leaves by quickly holding them over a flame or a very hot electric burner. It is said that "the good tamale is known by its wrapper," so try to make a secure and attractive package. Frozen banana leaves from the Philippines can be found in most Asian and Mexican markets.
- 1 lb lean pork
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1⁄2 onion, cut in half
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 dried ancho chiles, seeds and membranes removed
- 8 dried guajillo chilies, seeds and membranes removed
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 4 black peppercorns
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 lb masa dough
- 5 tablespoons lard
- banana leaf, 1 large (plus more leaves to line steamer)
- In a large saucepan, cover pork with water and add 1 garlic clove, 1 onion quarter and 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until the pork is tender, 45-60 minutes. Shred the meat, reserving the stock.
- Heat a comal or iron skillet over medium heat. Place the chiles in the hot skillet, using a spatula to press them against it slightly. Turn them so that both sides begin to change color. This will take 1-2 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. Place the chiles in a bowl, cover with warm water and soak for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place the tomatoes on a comal or griddle and grill until the skin is charred. Alternatively, put the tomatoes in a baking pan lined with foil and broil until skin is blackened, turning once. Peel and purée in a blender.
- Roast the other onion quarter, 2 cloves garlic, marjoram, peppercorns and cloves. Drain the chiles and transfer to a blender. Add the roasted onion, garlic, marjoram, peppercorns, cloves and 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) of reserved stock, then purée until smooth.
- Melt 1 tablespoon of the lard in a skillet and sauté the chile purée in it for 5 minutes. Add the puréed tomatoes and sauté for another 5 minutes; add the pork, stir and cover. Lower the heat and cook for 10 minutes.
- Hold the banana leaf directly over the heat for 5 seconds. Cut into 5-in (13 cm) squares.
- Knead the masa with 2 tablespoons (1 oz/30 g) of the lard for 5 minutes.
- Use the remaining lard to grease one side of the banana leaf. Place 3-in (7.5-cm) square of masa on the lard and top with 1 1/2 tablespoons of pork mixture.
- Fold the opposite edges of the leaf toward the center, then do the same with the same outer edges to form a closed rectangle. To secure tie the tamales with narrow strips of leaf.
- Place 2 cups (16 oz fl oz/500 ml) water in a pressure cooker, then cover the steamer basket with a layer of flattened banana leaves. Add the tamales to the steamer basket and cover with another layer of leaves. Place the lid on the pan and cook 20 minutes. If you use an ordinary steamer, follow the same procedure but use 4 cups (32 fl oz/1 L) water and cook for 1 hour.
- Serve warm, with frijoles refritos (refried beans).