Pork Tamales

posted: 06/30/10

Take Home Chef, Episode 82: Caroline's Menu


  • 2 teaspoons/10 ml olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 teaspoons/less than 2 g chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 large sprig fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon/less than 2 g whole allspice, toasted and ground
  • 10 ounces/280 g ground pork
  • 1/2 cup/115 ml dry red wine
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 pound/450 g Swiss chard, stems trimmed
  • 12 12x8-inch-/30x20-cm-square pieces fresh banana leaf (or thawed if frozen)
  • 2 pounds/900 g freshly prepared masa for tamales



  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and saut? for 5 minutes or until tender. Add the garlic, oregano, thyme and allspice and cook for a further 2 minutes or until fragrant.
  2. Add the pork and cook for 5 minutes, breaking up the meat with the spoon, or until the meat is almost cooked through. Add the red wine and cook for 5 minutes or until the wine reduces by half.
  3. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer gently for a further 45 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and the tomatoes are very tender. Season the pork mixture generously to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the saucepan from the heat and cool the pork mixture completely.


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Working in two batches, add the Swiss chard and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until just tender.
  2. Using tongs, remove the chard from the boiling water and transfer it to a bowl of ice water until cold. Placing the chard in ice water will prevent it from overcooking. Discard the ice water and squeeze the chard to remove any excess water.


  1. Place a small amount of chard in the center of a banana leaf. Spoon 1/4 cup/65 g of the masa over the chard and spread the masa to cover 4x3 inches/10x8 cm of the center of the banana leaf and to cover the chard completely.
  2. Place 2 tablespoons/30 g of the pork filling over the masa, then cover the pork filling with more chard. Fold one long side of the banana leaf towards the center to cover the filling, then roll up the banana leaf to enclose the filling completely.
  3. Tie both ends and the center of the tamale with butcher's twine or string to secure. Repeat with the remaining banana leaves, chard, masa, and pork filling.


  1. Add enough water to a large wok to fill by 2 inches/5 cm. Place the tamales in stackable bamboo steamer baskets then stack the baskets atop each other.
  2. Place the stacked baskets over the water in the wok. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low so that the water simmers gently and steam the tamales for about 1 hour or until they are firm and release easily from the banana leaves, adding more water to the wok if necessary.
  3. Serve two tamales to each person and be happy. Enclose any remaining tamales in a resealable freezer bag and freeze for 1 week. To rewarm the tamales, steam them again until heated through.
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