Although I love adventuring, I need the occasional lazy day to recover from a bout of exploration. A Saturday of television marathons, naps, and microwaveable food seemed just right to keep my Arizona vacation nice and relaxing.
So I stopped by Lerua’s for some of their frozen tamales. Lerua’s has been catering Tucson events since 1922. They now operate a small restaurant, but are still best known for their catering and take-out food, particularly tamales.
Tamales are eaten all over South and Central America. The basic formula involves a corn dough, called masa, stuffed with some type of sweet or savory filling, then wrapped in leaves and steamed or boiled. The filling options are endless, and might involve basically any meat, cheese, vegetable, and/or fruit you can imagine.
Lerua’s tamale menu keeps it simple. There are three options: chicken, beef, and their specialty, green corn. I decided to try some of each. Nestled in their corn husk wrappers, they were portable and sturdy. The tamales are fully cooked, then frozen, so they’re a snap to fix. I reheated mine in the microwave, still in their husks and covered with damp paper towels to keep them moist.
Lerua’s renown is well-deserved. All three types were exquisite. The chicken filling includes bell peppers and whole slices of cooked jalapeños that left my mouth tingling. The green corn tamal, a flavor which apparently originated in Tucson, is made with sweet white masa, and includes mild roasted green chiles. It reminds me of Southern corn pudding. Perhaps my favorite of the three is the beef tamal. Savory masa encases tender beef, braised and shredded in a red chile sauce. ¡Riquísimo!
In sum, all those magazines telling you to buy gimmicks, gadgets, and gift certificates for your family and friends are barking up the wrong tree. Tamales are a traditional Christmas food, and at just ~$3 a pop, you can afford a lot more of Lerua’s than, say, iPhones. I can’t imagine too many gifts that I’d rather unwrap.
Lerua’s Fine Mexican Foods
2005 E Broadway Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85719
One year ago today: Greetings from Saturday, Midair