Latin American Wrapped Treasures

The Latin American culture has a wholesome mixture of New World ingredients with ancestral dishes that has given an unique twist and flavor. Many countries may have a variety of dishes but also have some that might be similar in some ways but they keep some sort of uniqueness in them.

Today, being a few days away from Christmas day, I want to highlight three (3) Holiday favorites. Three (3) dishes that are unique and, in some dish-ly way, they can be seen as cousins. These are the Tamal from Mexico, the Pastel from Puerto Rico, and the Hallaca from Venezuela.

Wrapped Treasure #1 - Mexican Tamal

The Mexican Tamal is a small, rectangular dish. It's a traditional Mesoamerican dish made with natural corn-based dough. This dish is normally stuffed with meats & cheeses - which are the most popular ones - but also with fruits, vegetables, chillies or any mixed preparation according to taste. And this delicious creation is normally wrapped & steamed in a corn husk leaf.

Wrapped Treasure #2 - the Pasteles from Puerto Rico

The Puerto Rican Pastel is a very tropical cousin of the Tamal. The dough of this dish is bit more complex but, everything put together, is just very delicious. It's typically grated green bananas, green plantain, xanthosoma (known as malanga or yatuía), potato, and tropical pumpkins known as calabaza. This mixture of grated vegetables is normally seasoned with meat broth & annatto oil.

This dish is normally stuffed with a special meat stew - which includes chickpeas, capers, raisins, and olives - giving this stew a nice balance of sweet and salty taste. This wholesome dish is normally wrapped in some banana leaves and boiled to cook.

Wrapped Treasure #3 - Venezuelan Hallacas

This is one of my favorite Holiday dishes!

The Venezuelan Hallacas consists also of a corn-based dough which is also seasoned from the meat or chicken broth or consommé from the meat stew and lard colored with natural annato. This is stuffed with meat, pork, chicken, or a special combination of all the meats. According to the Venezuelan region where the Hallaca is made, there might be extra ingredients like chickpeas and raisins - or even a meat substitution, where cazón is the main ingredient - a fish in Venezuela with a  shark-like characteristics and prepared in a special stew in the West Coast of Venezuela.

Eating traditional dishes during the Holidays is a must, But by tasting other dishes that are a bit similar, it's always interesting and a nice conversation opener...

If you have experience these dishes, let me read you comments and share experiences!
Tried other similar dishes? Let the comments flow...