UTPA Report: Tamale cooking contest

Thursday, December 26, 2013 - 9:35am

They were cooking up some fun at the University of Texas Pan American, with a tasty competition. Roxanne Lerma brings us the story in this week’s UTPA Report.

The humble tamale is taking its turn in the limelight thanks to a UTPA cooking contest.

Larry Delgado, Chef at House Wine & Bistro, “Events like this are important to remind the public of our heritage, our cultural cuisine.”

Dr. Margaret Dorsey, the curator for the Border Studies Archive, a UTPA collection focused on the history of the people in South Texas, decided tamales would be the perfect draw for the community, “People who wouldn’t normally come to the archive unless they were invited to come and to celebrate Mexican-American, Mexican culture, cultures more generally."

So eight cooks labored long and hard, then set up shop with their tamales…Large and small, cheese or meat…the popular Mexican comfort food was laid out for the judges to dissect.

Santiago DeLaCruz, Cimarron Executive Chef, “I grew up with the tamales, every which way you can cook it we ate it.”

Dr. Miguel Diaz-Barriga, a Pan Am anthropology professor competed in the contest with his turkey tamale made from Thanksgiving leftovers,  “There are people who are participating in the contest who otherwise might not have come to UTPA. It’s a way of welcoming community members to our amazing university. Secondly, there are many UTPA students here so I think it’s a way for us to celebrate the holidays together.”

The steaming dishes served up happiness for the crowded room, lucky enough to sample the dazzling array.

Larry Delgado, Chef at House Wine, “Essentially what I hope to find is a well seasoned meat, a well seasoned masa that has layered flavors throughout the dish.”

Maria Gonzales had exactly what the judges were looking for. She cooked solo, using her grandmother’s spicy recipe to make the award-winning tamales in just two hours. She says cooking with love is the secret ingredient, “Me siento muy emosionada.”

“I feel excited she says. It’s a new experience for me. I’ve never won an award in my life and this is special because it represents who I am and where I came from in San Luis Potosi.”

Dr. Diaz-Barriga says that’s the best part. Tamales are a reflection of the rich heritage in South Texas,  “If you look at the amount of ingredients, the spices, and the preparation we are up there with any other cultures, with the French? You name it. So it’s fantastic to see this type of celebration where we are celebrating our culture through food. “

A celebration that will tempt your tastebuds. I’m Roxanne Lerma reporting for UTPA and Newscenter 23.

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