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Tucson Tamale Company

2545 East Broadway Boulevard, Tucson, AZ - (520) 305-4760
Posted By Michael Stern on 12/23/2012 5:22:00 AM
"The way I see it, the tamale is like a sandwich," says Todd Martin, who started the Tucson Tamale Company in 2008. "You can do anything with it you can imagine." Among his imaginings are vegetarian tamales and vegan tamales, as well as a thermonuclear "Tucson Tamale" for which the corn masa is supercharged with grilled jalapenos and cheese. Each is hand-rolled and huge, made with ingredients that are sparkling fresh. We especially love what Todd has labeled the Arizona tamale – roasted sirloin and smoky chipotle chilies – as well as the Santa Fe tamale, made with pork loin and green chilies. Not too long ago he came up with the dogmale, a gloss on the notorious Sonoran hot dog!

Martin schooled us in green corn tamales, which he offers during their traditional season, about three weeks at the end of summer when corn is ripe and the chile harvest has begun. He explained that tamales ought never be made by a single, solitary cook. They should be the inspiration for a party. In fact, the traditional tamale-making party, a harvest-time ritual in Sonoran Desert country, is so much fun that it changed Todd Martin's life and ultimately led him to abandon his job as a corporate executive and start the restaurant. "The first time I ever made a tamale," he recalls, "was when my sweetheart – now my wife – invited me to her parents' house to make tamales on a Sunday in early September. I expected to spend a few hours helping here and there, but it turned out to be a whole day, and they did it right. They had exactly what you need to make green corn tamales: five bushels of corn, twenty-five pounds of roasted chiles and twenty people. Plus five cases of beer for the tamale makers to drink. That is the rule of green corn tamale making: one case of beer for each bushel of corn."

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5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Tamale
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A single tamale is large enough to be a very nice meal. Here's one in which the moist corn masa is veined with massive amounts of cheese and vivid roasted jalapenos. A variety of condiments, from tame to torturous, are shown alongside.
"A single tamale is large enough to be a very nice meal. Here's one in which the moist corn masa is veined with massive amounts of cheese and vivid roasted jalapenos. A variety of condiments, from tame to torturous, are shown alongside."
Michael Stern





Green corn tamales are made with sweet corn masa moist with juice straight off the cob, cheese, and freshly-roasted chilies from the Mesilla Valley in New Mexico. They are such fine and opulent pieces of food that one is tempted to call them artisan tamales, but they are too inexpensive and too much a part of life in the Old Pueblo to have an elitist name.
"Green corn tamales are made with sweet corn masa moist with juice straight off the cob, cheese, and freshly-roasted chilies from the Mesilla Valley in New Mexico. They are such fine and opulent pieces of food that one is tempted to call them artisan tamales, but they are too inexpensive and too much a part of life in the Old Pueblo to have an elitist name."
Michael Stern


This photo was just too good to resist. I assumed that the 'B Vegan'-plated Smart Car belonged to proprietor Todd Martin or one of his staff, given the fact that the Tucson Tamale Company menu does include several vegetarian as well as vegan options. But no, according to Todd, it just happened to be parked in front of the shop the day we visited.
"This photo was just too good to resist. I assumed that the 'B Vegan'-plated Smart Car belonged to proprietor Todd Martin or one of his staff, given the fact that the Tucson Tamale Company menu does include several vegetarian as well as vegan options. But no, according to Todd, it just happened to be parked in front of the shop the day we visited."
Michael Stern


Inspired by the Sonoran hot dog so popular from street carts in Tucson, the 'dogmale' is filled with bites of all-beef frank, bacon, cheese, beans and salsa. Delicious!
"Inspired by the Sonoran hot dog so popular from street carts in Tucson, the 'dogmale' is filled with bites of all-beef frank, bacon, cheese, beans and salsa. Delicious!"
Michael Stern


Hot stuff: the JoJo tamale is jalapeno-spiked masa enveloping chipotle beef.
"Hot stuff: the JoJo tamale is jalapeno-spiked masa enveloping chipotle beef."
Michael Stern


Todd Martin loves the tamale's versatility. Here is his 'Little Italy' variation, featuring spicy sausage, pepper and cheese.
"Todd Martin loves the tamale's versatility. Here is his 'Little Italy' variation, featuring spicy sausage, pepper and cheese."
Michael Stern


A vegan tamale made with yam masa and sweet plantains.
"A vegan tamale made with yam masa and sweet plantains."
Michael Stern



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