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Tamahli: Sweet and Savory

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Tamalhi: Tamal RojoTamahli on Wurzbach Road near Vance Jackson Road isn't a sit-down restaurant. But my first order there didn't make it out of the parking lot. A friend and I sat in the car and devoured more than a half-dozen tamales in a matter of minutes, marveling at the steaming hot nature of each, the freshness of the masa used (many of the tamales, in fact, use fresh corn masa) and the forceful flavors of the fillings. (The price wasn't bad either. Most of the tamales are about $1.40 apiece, $5.99 for a half-dozen or $9.25 for a dozen.) The spicy Mad Pig in a Husk, with pork and jalapeños, offered a pleasant burn throughout the mouth, while the Cowboy, made with beef, soothed the palate. The Holy Moley, a flat tamal wrapped in a banana leaf, was topped with a sweet mole and a sprinkling of sesame seeds; the accent is on sweet, and for those who prefer that, it succeeds. It's also visually attractive.
Food: 3.5 Value: 4 Rating scale: 5: Extraordinary 4: Excellent 3: Good 2: Fair 1: Poor
I prefer my sugar in dessert tamales, and this family-owned stand delivered with the cinnamon- and pecan-seasoned First Kiss. Even better was the Sleepy Hollow, an earthy mixture of pumpkin and masa with a generous touch of ginger and clove. If you are ordering tamales ahead of time, read the provided reheating instructions and follow clearly. At a later tasting, we couldn't wait and devoured a plateful that had been out of the steamers for more than an hour. Then you took notice of the fact that Tamahli uses vegetable shortening instead of lard. The latter may not be deemed as healthy, but it does add a creaminess and keeps the tamales a touch moister. Yet, even drier than the company would have preferred, the tamales' bold array of flavors -- such as the Green Piece (chicken with tomatillo salsa) and the Speedy Gonzalez (cheese and poblano) -- shone through. Tamahli gets the proportion of masa to filling right, so that neither overrides the other. The rustic corn flavor provides a sturdy base for the inventive fillings, and the end result is both light and substantial without being greasy. The tamales are also made fresh daily, so you won't face any with freezer burn, though your favorite might be sold out before the end of the day.
Talahli ExteriorTamahli (website) (210) 877-9949 Open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday; 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday
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