Cooking with EL CHAVO!

How to make Masa for Vegetarian Tamales!

What's a tamal without the masa? Probably just steamed vegetables in a sauce. The masa is what gives everything order, providing the structure in which the fillings can mature into a hand sized meal to be enjoyed by all! It helps to (mostly) contain all the ingredients into a nice hand sized package ready to be of service when you next need a meal.

So let's get started with the masa. You've already made your nixtamal right?

This is a rough estimation of the proportions I used for this particular batch. You will have to evaluate and poke and prod and taste to see if it works for you. DO NOT ASSUME THIS IS A PERFECT RECIPE!

7 cups (homemade and ground) Nixtamal
1 cup Corn oil
2 cups Vegetarian Stock
2 cups Sauce
Salt, a good amount

My ground nixtamal, ready to go. The hard part of this upcoming process is mixing the ingredients into this dense ball of corn clay.

For the stock I make mine usually from vegetarian bouillon cubes or from some other powder stuff available at health food stores everywhere. Or you can buy it in those soymilk containers, like they have at Trader Joe's. Or make it from scratch if you have the time. I usually add a bit of extra stuff to mine, like some nutritional yeast for savoriness, or extra salt, or whatever it might need.

I make a big pot of the sauce that will go into the tamal precisely so I can use some to be mixed into the masa. The main thing to know is that the way your masa tastes before you cook it will be pretty much how it will taste after you cook it, so you want to try to flavor and salt it somewhat so it doesn't taste all boring. I find that mixing the sauce in helps tons.

I happen to have a Kitchen Aid mixer cuz I'm a sellout Bourgeois Pig. But if you're still part of the working class, you can put your manual labor into practice by mixing it all with your very productive hands! Yup, just wash your hands and have yourself an intimate squeezing session with some hot corn. We don't need a KitchenAid, the KitchenAid needs you!

Add your ingredients slowly, some nixtamal, some oil, some stock, and mix it up. With your hands, your mom's hand mixer, or some vendidos KitchenAid.  The mistake I recently made (and I knew it would happen) was to add all the wet ingredients at once, trying to save time, but then my masa was too watery, which was harder to fix. Better to keep it a bit on the dry side and add the liquids slowly to get it to where you want it. For me that means tasty, slick, easy to work with, not too watery, not too dry, and a bit airy as well. Mind you, I don't like it too airy either, which is why I don't add any baking powder like many people do. But to each their own.

Taste it, then taste again. The list above was what I believe I used in the process of preparing my masa, but you may have to add or subtract depending on your circumstances. Some people do this test where they roll up a ball of masa and see if it floats in a glass of water, but I think that's stupid. Mostly cuz I don't like those type of tamales, with a thick skin of spongy masa around a hint of filling, all masudos. I like mine with a hint of masa around my fillings! The proper mix of oils, salt, stock, and corn is one that you will have to sadly learn on your own as I have no way to either show you what I like or make you even like what I like. Just try this for now, and then you can modify to your own accord.

This looks perfect to me! Our homemade nixtamal is now a tasty masa for tamales.

You really don't have to make your own nixtamal if you don't want to, you can also buy your nixtamal from a tortilleria, all nicely ground even. You can use that plain ground nixtamal and add all the stuff to turn it into masa as described above.  But you can make it all even more convenient by just buying your masa "preparada" meaning its been prepared to be used in tamales. Often that means its been mixed with lard, which is what I always want to avoid, and the reason why I make my own using vegetarian alternatives. But there's places that will even make you some masa preparada vegetarian style, with no lard and using vegetable stock, like over at La Morenita Bakery. If you give them a days notice, they can make you some. I'm going to try some soon.

Coming next, the fillings!

Click here to go to the main tamal page.

If you'd like to comment on this article, go here.

More crappy recipes from EL CHAVO!