POSTED ON FEBRUARY 17, 2010:
Ol' Santa Fe Tamale Company turns out a jumbo taste
Tamales have a special place for me. As a child, my dad would take my brother and I to a movie at the old Circle Theatre (now Circle Cinema) on Lewis and Admiral. Afterwards, he would buy hot tamales from the "tamale man," a street vendor who would position his cart outside the theatre for hungry families such as ours.
Since then, I've had this healthy affinity to tamales--even pondered making them, but the labor-intensiveness of recipes found me buying them instead.
Ol' Sante Fe Tamale Company makes a very good chicken and pork tamale, so I don't have to make that store visit, and they come with a history.
In 1996, John Martinez, known now as the "Tamale Master," put aside a first career of 39 years as a medical technologist to become a tamale technologist. He wanted to develop nutritious and healthy tamales, and he did.
Martinez's jumbo tamales are 8 ounces, 6 inches long and only have 5 grams of fat. The circumference is even larger than what one would expect--an inch or so.
"These are the 'filet mignon' of tamales," Martinez said.
He said most tamales will have 40 to 60 grams of fat and use cheap meat. (Many types of tamales are made with lard and have an average size of only two ounces.)
Martinez began selling his tamales retail at 111th and Memorial, then decided to sell wholesale to such places as Sam's, Reasor's and Petty's. This became burdensome for him, so he returned to retail, selling them at a new location on South Aspen in Broken Arrow.
"This is strictly a family business," Martinez said. Martinez said he and his daughter, Lisa Hayes, are the main tamale makers, while his son even comes by after a full day of work to help as well.
While the old tamales were made by hand, Martinez said his tamales are not "because it would take too long and the product would not be consistent."
His tamale production is "semi-automated" as he describes it, so that "the same amount of meat and masa are in each tamale." The production and selling from his little shop at 81st and 145th in Broken Arrow is an interesting concept. He said tamales are made throughout the day, and when he sells out, he takes customers' orders and reserves them for pick-up.
That is exactly what happened to me in my tamale encounter. I went by to pick up some tamales for dinner, and luckily they had a dozen chicken tamales available but no pork tamales. Therefore, I pre-ordered a dozen pork tamales to pick up at 1pm the next day.
Tamales are sold as one single tamale ($2.50), a half dozen tamales ($12.50) and by the dozen ($18.50). For my order, I also bought an order of Chile and Beans, a 16-ounce container for $2.50.
Once home, I unwrapped the tamale from an outside paper wrapper and then from the corn husk.(Heating instructions are available on their Web site, jumbotamale.com, which suggests to steam them for 15 minutes or microwave them for two minutes, with the tamale wrapped in a wet paper towel.)
This was a large and long tamale. The corn masa (dough) is white with a good amount of chicken inside. Martinez said the chicken tamales are made from the meat of boneless thighs and New Mexican green chiles, spices and herbs. He has high expectations from the Hatch chiles, grown in Hatch, N.M. If his tamales are the "filet mignon" of tamales, he fills it with the Hatch chile known to many as the "filet mignon" of chiles. Chile purists have said the Hatch chile is not Mexican or Tex-Mex, but has its own unique New Mexican flavor.
I sliced the tamale in bite-sized pieces and poured some homemade red sauce--which comes with an order--over them, then took a bite. They were good and healthy tasting. The red sauce was thin and deep red with the red chile powder. It was not too spicy; it added a good layer of spicy depth to each bite.
I definitely could distinguish the healthy taste of these tamales. Martinez does not use lard in his tamales; although, it does provide a distinct richness and heaviness to tamales, which you could notice. In addition, I needed to add a little salt to bring out all the flavors. The masa was soft, the chicken tender and all of the spices blended well. I detected a whole tamale taste, not just one single flavor. And, I was able to eat three of these jumbo tamales without a bloated, heavy feeling that most tamales leave. They are fresh and light. I found the sauce a necessity with these to bring out the flavor.
Martinez said the sauce is made with New Mexico red chile puree, special spices and red chili powder. He suggests using it as I did: "Pour it over the tamales like mashed potatoes and gravy."
The Chile and Beans was excellent! Martinez's wife, Gloria, prepares the Chile and Beans, and he said it is popular. He said she uses pinto beans with meat, green chiles and special spices. The broth or "gravy" of this Chile and Beans was rich with the bean and beef flavor and with little beef pieces.
Ol' Sante Fe Tamale Company is just a little place where orders are placed and picked up. There is no seating, only a counter. It is new and clean, and the staff is very friendly.
Martinez is truly moved that so many of his clients from years ago at his south Memorial location are now coming here.
"We established a very good clientele over the years, and I see now that they are very loyal."
As Martinez said, once the tamales are sold out, customers will have to reserve an order for when another batch is ready later in the day.
I suggest calling ahead to be sure tamales are available or to place an order and to be sure a placed order is ready. My reserved order was not prepared when I arrived the next day. I was told that they did not have any, and another batch would not be ready for another hour and a half. (I cancelled my order not wanting to drive back and forth from Tulsa later in the day.)
Ol' Sante Fe Tamale Company
620 S. Aspen
URL for this story: http://www.urbantulsa.comhttp://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A29252