6 cups masa harina or corn flour
1 cup lard, shortening, or butter
1 teaspoon salt (1 more teaspoon later)
3 tablespoons orange juice
5 tablespoons lime juice
4 cups chicken stock
INGREDIENTS – FILLING
⅔ cup rice
2½ pounds pork
3 large potatoes
3 garlic cloves
1 green bell pepper
1 large onion
1 sweet green chile pepper
1 medium tomato
3 tablespoons cilantro
1½ tablespoons cumin
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon achiote paste (or ½ teaspoon paprika plus ½ teaspoon vinegar)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Makes 18 nacatamales. Takes at least 3 hours.
INGREDIENTS – ASSEMBLY
12 10″-x-10″ banana-leaf squares*
A roll of aluminum foil
Multiple big pots (4½ or larger. Extra pots enables you to cook more nacatamales at once.)
Good restorative drink to keep you going.
* = Banana leaves can be found in Mexican or Asian grocery stores. If they can’t be found, just use the tin foil without them. Oh, banana leaves are curved, not square at all. Bastards.
cooking twine or butcher’s twine
PREPARATION – INITIAL
Soak banana leaves in large pot. You really need to make the banana leaves flexible.
PREPARATION – DOUGH
Add masa harina, lard, and 1 teaspoon salt to first, large mixing bowl. Mix with electric beater set on low. With electric still set on low, slowly add orange juice, lime juice, and chicken stock. Mix until it has the consistency of mashed potatoes. Rev up electric beater to high setting or until it starts to become fluffy. Cover dough and let sit for 30 minutes.
PREPARATION – FILLING
While dough is sitting, cook rice according to instructions on package. Cut pork into ½” cubes. Peel potatoes. Slice potatoes into ½” cubes. Dice garlic cloves, green bell pepper, onion, sweet green chile pepper, and tomato. Add pork cubes, cilantro, cumin, pepper, salt, and achiote paste to second, large mixing bowl. Mix with hands until pork cubes are well coated with spices.
Add vegetable oil, coated pork cubes, and potato cubes to pan. Sauté on medium heat for 20 minutes or until potatoes soften. Stir frequently. Add garlic cloves, green bell pepper, onion, sweet green chile pepper, and tomato. Sauté for 5 minutes or until onion softens. Stir frequently.
PREPARATION – ASSEMBLY
Remove banana leaves soaking in pot. Heat water on high heat until it is scalding hot. Add banana-leaf square to pot. Keep leaf in pot until it becomes flexible. Remove banana leaf. Place ⅓ cup of dough in the middle of the banana leaf. Smooth dough with wet hands until it is about 2″ from the edges of the banana leaf.
Add equal amounts of pork cubes (about ⅓ cup), over the middle of the dough, followed by cooked rice (about 2 tablespoons) and potato cubes (about 1½ tablespoons). Add another ⅓ cup of dough over potato cubes. Smooth top layer of dough gently with wet hands. Fold bottom edge of banana leaf over filling until it reaches the top half of the leaf Gently fold in edges to make a square. Gently–Don’t break the banana leaf–tie kitchen twine around filled banana-leaf square.
Place the filled banana-leaf square over the center of an aluminum-foil square. (The aluminum-foil square large enough to wrap the banana square. Tightly fold bottom edge of foil over filled banana-leaf square. Tightly fold sides of aluminum foil over banana square, then the top side. Tie the aluminum-foil covered square like a parcel with kitchen twine. Repeat process for each banana leaf. There should be a banana leaf softening in the pot while constructing each nacatamale.
Put metal rack in bottom of each pot. Add water to each pot until level is ½” above the racks. (Aluminum cookie cutters work quite well as a substitute for wire racks.) Bring to boil using high heat. Cover and reduce heat to low. Add a single layer of nacatamales to rack. Simmer for 45 minutes. Add water as necessary to keep level ½” above the rack. Remove nacatamales from pots. Repeat for each batch of nacatamales. Remove all twine and tin foil and serve to adoring guests.
If your sweetheart makes this for you, propose marriage immediately.
1) Nacatamales were invented by Señor Naca Tamale, chef to the royal governor in 1689. They were delicious, so much so that Governor Alfonso Bondigas knew he would win a million pieces of gold if he could send just one nacatamale to the Spanish king, Charles II.
2) So, in 1690, Governor Bondigas sent 100 nacatamales with the annual fleet carrying gold to Spain. They got eaten by the crews.
3) In 1691, Governor Bondigas sent 200 nacatamales with the fleet. 100 got eaten by the crews. The rest got eaten by gourmet rats.
4) In 1692, Governor Bondigas sent 400 nacatamales. The sailors devoured 100, the gourmet rats another 100, and the rest spontaneously combusted. No one saw that one coming.
5) Pirates captured the annual Nacatamale fleet in 1693, tamales having by that time become more valuable than gold.
6) In 1694, the Honduran governor sent 1,600 nacatamales with the nacatamale fleet. Unfortunately, First Mate Pedro Migas placed the nacatamales in the same room where he dried the rew’s socks. When half of the socks fled to a parallel dimension–a journey they continue to this day–they took all the socks with them. By the way, culinary quantum physicists say trans-dimensional aliens took a great liking to nacatamales and can often be found at nacatamale stand through out Central America. You have to look closely for them; their disguises are excellent.
7) In 1695, Governor Bondigas tried catapulting the nacatamales to Spain. They only made it two miles out to sea where they utterly destroyed a pirate fleet. Karma, you bet.
8) In 1696, Señor Bondigas noticed a little boy skipping rocks all the way across a small stream. Could this work with nacatamales? No.
9) Spurred by the efforts of 1697, nacatamale skipping became the premier event of the Spanish-American games. All Honduras went sports mad. Every young man in that land spent every spare moment practicing to win the gold medal in nacatamale skipping. This naturally left no nacatamales left to be shipped to Spain.
10) The banana bug wiped out the banana crop in 1698. No banana leaves, no nacatamales.
11) In 1699, banana growers all used their leaves to make beer. Banana-leaf beer was enormously popular that year. You can only find this beer in a few Honduran villages. The brand is El Banano.
12) In 1700, the Nacatamale Fleet finally made it to Spain with fifty million nacatamales. But Charles II had died two weeks before. His successor, Philip of Anjou, grandsom of Louis XIV exported them all to Britain as a good-will gesture. The British loved the nacatamale. Lasting global peace seemed likely. But the British gobbled the nacatamales up in just one week, got sick of them, and in revenge declared war on France. Wars would rage across Europe for another 245 years. The new Spanish King blamed Governor Bondigas who died broken hearted. However, the legacy of the good man lives on in the millions upon millions of postal packages wrapped in the manner of the nacatamale.
– Chef Paul
My cookbook, Eat Me: 169 Fun Recipes From All Over the World, and novels are available in paperpack or Kindle on amazon.com
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3 thoughts on “Honduran Nacatamales and Those European Wars”
Spontaneous combusting Nacatamales? I would love to see that!
You had me until I read “cilantro!”
Kathy, substitute a combination of parsley and oregano for the cilantro. Sorry about that, lot of people don’t like cilantro.
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