Annie's Chamorro Kitchen: Tamåles Gisu

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Annie's Chamorro Kitchen: Tamåles Gisu

by: Army Lt. Col. (Ret.) Annette Merfalen | .
Annie's Chamorro Kitchen | .
published: September 29, 2016

Tamåles Gisu is a Chamorro tamales with one red side and a non-spicy white side.

I make my tamåles by making the red side corn flour or cornmeal-based (I prefer cornmeal) and the white side rice-based.  I also add hot peppers to the red side and leave the white side non-spicy. I add cooked bacon to both the red and white mixtures, but if that weren’t enough, I also top the tamåles gisu with a slice of delicious bacon.

This is an easy recipe to make.  The time-consuming part is wrapping the tamåles in individual packets.  The traditional tamåles gisu is wrapped in banana leaves.  Living in the mainland U.S., however, I rarely find fresh banana leaves (I prefer using fresh over frozen leaves), so I wrap the tamåles in aluminum foil and place a strip of banana leaf in each packet to give it a little bit of flavor of the “real thing.”

If you’re really pressed for time, forego wrapping individual tamåles.  Instead, use a large dish and place the red side in half of the dish, the white in the other half.  Add slices of cooked bacon on top and let your guests scoop out the tamales.

Give my recipe a try.  I think you’ll like it. :)

Ingredients:

Red Portion:

  • 4 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 packages achote powder
  • 2 tablespoons powdered chicken bouillon
  • 1/2 to 1 cup white cornmeal or masa harina (corn flour) (Note: start with 1/2 cup first; if you want it thicker, add more)
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Hot pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup reserved bacon fat

White Portion:

  • 4 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons powdered chicken bouillon
  • 1 cup cream of rice
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup reserved bacon fat

Directions:

  1. In two separate pots, sauté the garlic, onion, and bacon over medium heat; reserve about 1/2 cup of melted bacon fat from each pot (or a total of 1 cup of bacon fat), drain remaining fat.
  2. For the Red Portion:  Add the water, achote powder, and chicken bouillon to the bacon mixture; return to a boil. Slowly whisk the cornmeal into the bacon mixture; the mixture should start to thicken.  Add black pepper and hot pepper to taste.   Continue to cook over low heat until the mixture thickens.  Add some of the reserved bacon fat if the mixture is too thick to stir; the consistency should be like thick oatmeal.
  3. For the White Portion:  Add the water and chicken bouillon to the bacon mixture; return to a boil. Slowly whisk the cream of rice into the bacon mixture; the mixture should start to thicken.  Note: If you don’t have cream of rice, toast 1 cup of uncooked rice in a shallow pan.  Let the toasted rice cool then use a blender to grind the rice into a fine powder.  Use this in place of the cream of rice.  Add black pepper to taste. Continue to cook over low heat until the mixture thickens. Add some of the reserved bacon fat if mixture is too thick to stir; the consistency should be like thick oatmeal.
  4. Cut the aluminum foil into 8-inch squares. Top each piece of foil with both mixtures (red and white portions side by side) then place one strip of bacon on top of the red and white filling before sealing the foil. For those of you worried about placing uncooked bacon in the tamales, the bacon will cook as it steams.  Or, you can pre-cook the bacon before adding it to the tamåles.  Fold the sides of the foil over the tamales then fold together to seal.
  5. Steam the freshly wrapped tamåles for 15-20 minutes (steam frozen tamåles for 30-40 minutes).

Unwrap and ENJOY!

Annie's Chamorro Kitchen website

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