They are usually eaten on the run or from portable carts. But one of those vendors has now moved into a permanent space where she's making a half dozen delicious varieties every day.
An assembly line of just two women is about as mechanized as the process gets at Tamales Garibay, which occupies the tiniest corner along North Kedzie Avenue. All they do, all day long, is assemble tamales.
"The tamale is a Mexican food make it with masa and different sauce or different meat," said owner Alicia Romero.
That masa is essentially a batter made from ground corn.
"I use a plain masa, like the tortilla. And then we put lard and different kind of teas. I don't use water for make masa," Romero said.
Adding brewed tea and rich lard would seem to be Romero's secrets. Those, and the fact she and her assistant routinely overstuff their corn husks with filling, giving them more heft as well as flavor.
Fillings range from the standard shredded chicken with a red chile sauce, or pork with a green tomatillo to jalapeno and cheese, ground beef chili, even squash with chihuahua cheese. She'll also make homemade mole, in this case, a dark, mole negro, then combine it with shredded chicken before placing the tamale into a giant steamer on the stovetop, where it will cook for about 45 minutes. The results are predictable: warm, soft edge with a corn-flecked outer shell that is infused with the cheese, mole or chile sauce filling you choose.
"I don't use any ingredients by can, everything is homemade," she said.
Not only are these tamales homemade, handmade and delicious, they are also incredibly affordable at $1.75 each; $5 for all three. You can't beat that deal.
There are also a couple of "dessert" tamales offered each day, such as pineapple. And there are a few other items on the menu, like tacos and burritos.
3859 N. Kedzie Ave.