Paying the debt of finding baby Jesus in Europe
The classic day for a tamaliza in Mexico is that of the Day of the Candelaria. If you were the lucky one to get the baby Jesus figure when you cut the "rosca", you know that you also have to provide the tamales on the 2nd of February. But what do you do if you are not a "conquistador" in the kitchen or simply don't feel like entering it and dedicating yourself to making tamales? Where do you get some delicious tamales in Europe to get rid of the debt the little plastic figure left you with or to just pamper yourself?
The first option is to buy the ones that come in a package from your favorite store. They are not bad at all and almost certainly, the debt will cost you less. But, even so, you will have to heat them up, serve them and do the whole act. Simply put, you don't avoid the kitchen. Also, what if you or your guests aren't big on conservatives? In this case, the solution is to find where delicious tamales are prepared and enjoy them well-made and already served. Easy to say, but something that can be quite an exhausting task.
Now, the tamale is not something that is found in every corner of European cities, as is in Mexico. Those who have lived on this side of the ocean, know it very well. The truth is that in many a Mexican restaurant, this traditional delight is not easily found on their menus. The reason is relatively simple: the tamale is not as well known by the natives of this continent as is the burrito or the taco. It is not something that is eaten regularly outside of Latin America, excluding countries like the United States that have a high population of Mexicans. This, too, is the explanation of why I think it is easier to find a good tamale in Spain, Germany or France. But, if you live in a city like Athens, Greece like I do, be prepared to roam the city from side to side.
So I decided to do a search on the Internet to see how epic it would be to eat a ready-made and served tamale in various European capitals. To be honest, I chose the path that I considered to be the easiest, because searching further than some of the major capitals would be very laborious. At this point, I want to emphasize that this is an honest project, made through the Google search engine. I have to clarify that I am looking for Mexican tamales and not those of other Latin American countries. There are no affiliate links and no establishment has been mentioned to favor or disfavor it. It's what Google provides, if you ask, and a couple of eateries that have been mentioned in a post I placed on Instagram, to get the opinion of people who live in these cities or have passed through them in their travels. Here, you will find a very limited list that has not been checked out in person. Any reader who may know where you can eat a good tamale in any city of the old continent is invited to please mention it in a comment at the end of this article. Rest assured that many will appreciate it at some point.
We begin with the easiest city, the capital of Spain, which is undoubtedly one of the most populated by Mexicans in Europe. I imagine that this gives it the advantage of being the most likely place to find a tamale worthy of its name. However, putting my theory to the test, I decided to ask my daughter in Madrid, who told me that she doesn't buy them very often because they are expensive. She sent me a picture of the tamales Taqueria My Citysells, which is located in C. of the Rows 5, which is where she usually eats tacos, and indeed, at €5.20 the Oaxacan tamale, filled with pork in green sauce, cheese with rajas or chicken tinga, do not really attract my attention. My first contact proved to be daunting, I have to admit. I pity those that found baby Jesus!
Having a new and unexpected fact to take into account, the price of tamales, I continued my search on Google. Placing "mexican tamales in madrid” in the field, the first result given was Mestizo. The first thing I did was open the menu and check the price. At €8.60 for two tamales, that is, €4.30 each, Oaxacan or DF, as they call those with corn leaves, they were cheaper by almost one euro, but with the obligation to buy two.
Next on the list was Sol Azteca. Here, I found the same: a pretty untouchable price of €6.50, Oaxacan or in corn leaves. Surely, you should to avoid the "rosca de reyes"!
It can't be, I insist, and I continue forward with determination. The next one with tamales in full view, was Chapultepec Tacos, where to taste their tamales, green, red or Oaxacan, you are asked to pay the modest amount of €7.50!
By now, I'm packing my virtual bags and heading to Berlin, ready to face exuberant prices, since Germany is not known for being a cheap country. Either way, I was determined to give apply benefit of the doubt and not judge before I had a look. To the unknown and beyond!, then.
While Madrid, according to Wikipedia, had a population of 8,213 Mexicans at the time of writing this article, Berlin had 7,000. Although I don't have much hope of finding anything better than Madrid, I continue unprejudiced and enter my search. : “mexican tamales in berlin“. Let's see what awaits us.
I had to search a lot to find the first place that offers tamales. Its name, trespassers, in small letters, as you see it. First of all, it looks like a bar. I can't say it with certainty since I am not very proud of my level of German, but my English is native and its motto is “life is too short for lousy drinks”. Whatever it may be, I'm in search of tamales and tamales, they do have. There doesn't seem to be any problem with variety: red, black, paches, chuchitos, vegan red, vegan black, cheese and jalapeños, yucca and chicken tamale, rice and sliced jalapeños tamale, green tamale, etc. Wow! One gets dazzled. But, in the next line: €8.20. And then, further down, in fine print, but luckily, in Spanish: "Everything comes frozen and vacuum sealed, at home it is simply heated in boiling water and ready to eat." If you want to know how I felt, click below.
I don't lose faith. I say, man, how are you going to buy tamales in a bar?, and I continue my search. And I search, and I search, and I search, but nothing. Now, I don't want to say that there are no tamales in Berlin. It would be very ignorant of me. Simply, that for my investigation, the information is little. In Restaurant Guru, I was able to see several comments from people who had eaten tamales in Chaparro and in Sandunga Mezcaleria, but I had no luck finding them in their menus. So, I decided to declare the mission failed in Berlin and headed out for Paris. I will definitely avoid the rosca, when in the German capital! What if baby Jesus falls in my hands?
Ah, the City of Light! Here, without a doubt, there will be tamales. Quickly, I run into Zicatela Rex, where in their menu, tamales can be found (only on some days), at €16.00. There is no more information, but looking through their gallery, I see a photo of a plate with three tamales served and I hope that this price is that of the order. Right under Zicatela Rex, is Zicatela Folies. Here, the price is more attractive, at only €12.00. Once again, I hope that this is the price of an order.
Going back to the Google list, I see Taco Loco. Quickly and anxiously, I make my way to their website and sure enough, they have tamales! In addition, they are with mole. I love mole. But right to the right of my wonderful find, is the price: €15.00. Would this be for an order?
In Mexi & Co there are chicken tamales for only €6.50 (I'm getting used to the prices by now). As in Berlin, here also, I found comments from people who glorified the tamales of El Nopal at Restaurant Guru, but once again, not even a crumb of them in their menu.
I can say that everything I saw in Paris is beyond my “budget”. But hey, I'm in the French capital. Why have expectations? What did I think I'd find, the prices of Athens? Cheer up! Let's see what's in Rome.
In Rome, things are somewhat simpler. The reason is that @rosarioheneghan, an Instagram user, made a suggestion in a comment on a post I published, asking for feedback. She told me that she would look to buy them from El Jalapeño. By coincidence, some time ago, we had the opportunity to interview its owner, Lina Jimenez, and without a giving it a second thought, I went to check out her tamales. Here, the prices are much more affordable. Chicken with mole, pork in green sauce and rajas with cheese and corn in husks, for only €4.50. There are also sweet ones at the same price: rose with raisins and pineapple with nuts. The Oaxacan style tamales are stuffed with cochinita and rajas con queso at €5.50 each. Not bad!
El Pueblo has meat and vegetarian tamales, both in corn husks, for €8.00 a piece. After seeing the prices in the other European capitals, I can no longer say anything.
I found some more eateries that sell tamales, like Casa Sanchez and La Punta Expendio Agave, both with Google photos of tamales, but no mention of them on their websites or social networks.
Also, La Cucaracha has user mentions of its tamales on Restaurant Guru, but no clue of where to see the product. We continue with London to close the tour.
London, United Kingdom
I came here to look for Sweet Nibles, also proposed by @rosarioheneghan. Honestly, I have no idea what to look for, but most seem to be bakeries. Unfortunately, tamales, I did not find. Since I was in the capital of the United Kingdom, I decided to see what I could find.
Mestizo has tamales at £8.40 a piece. They come in a corn husk stuffed with chicken with mole, cheese with rajas, pork with green sauce or with black beans. The other variety is what they call costeños and they are the ones that are wrapped in a banana leaf, with pork, chicken or in its vegan version with morita chile sauce. Attention! The price is in British pounds, which at the time of writing, was £1 for €1.13, which means that each tamale costs almost €9.50. It is worth mentioning that Mestizo is located in 103 Hampstead Rd.
The reason why I added the address of Mestizo is because there is another Mestizo at 392 Kings Rd. Whether they both belong to the same owner or not is not something I can say for sure, although I think this is the case. The important thing is that this Mestizo has their tamales at £9.40 and they seem to be the same as those of the other.
I have to say that I expected more variety from London but I didn't really find it searching on the internet. When talking about tamales, of course.
Summary and Advice
Summing it up, I begin by admitting that I was quite surprised. I didn't expect to have such a hard time finding tamales. I also did not expect these prices when I actually found them. I started with Spain, where I thought I would find the best price and the largest number of restaurants that offer this delicacy, but it turned out that Rome was the capital where I found the cheapest tamale. However, the truth is that the price of the tamale amazed me in all the capitals I visited. I realized the fixation towards the stereotype of Mexican food. While there is no restaurant without tacos on its menu, something so ingrained in our culture, like the tamale, is missing from most of them.
That winds up my summary. Now for the advice. Really, I think that if you are not willing to go into your kitchen to prepare tamales or order them from one of the many grocery stores, scattered throughout the nations of Europe, don't participate in the partition of the "rosca". If you decide to anyway, be prepared to travel a lot of kilometers and spend a lot of money to get out of debt, if you happen to stumble upon the little plastic figure of baby Jesus.
Once again, I ask my readers to please help me find ready-to-eat tamales, mentioning the restaurants where they can be found in your city. Surely, you must know where a good tamale is sold when craving for one.
In the Netherlands you can find them for €3.66 per piece at La Abuela Bakery, where we prepare pan de dulce, tamales and much more. We don't have a restaurant, we are an online business, but the taste of our products supports us. Greetings and thanks for such an entertaining article.
Cinthya, it is a pleasure to know that La Abuela Bakery also prepares tamales. We already knew about all the delicacies that come out of its workshop, but we never thought that it also produced tamales. Thank you for sharing this detail with us and with all the people who want to buy this traditional delight. Congratulations on your great journey! Hugs 🤗