Best Tamales - 2001
It's hard to find a good tamale nowadays; the once ubiquitous handful of stuffed masa has been more or less supplanted by the perfunctory burrito. But this Latin American delicacy, in which cornmeal dough is wrapped around the filling of your choice and steamed until hot and aromatic, has been a multicultural mainstay from Cape Horn to the Rio Grande for millennia. Barrasa keeps the tradition alive. The front of this tiny grocery is given over to the preparation of hot-from-the-steamer tamales from three different traditions: a creamy, custardy Salvadoran version filled with olives, potatoes, and pork; a citrusy, risottolike Nicaraguan tamale enclosing chicken, capers, and stone fruit; and a sweet-corn dessert tamale from Mexico with the soft, thick texture of a good poundcake. A tradition worth continuing, one bite at a time.