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Jan. 27, 2023

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Clark County’s hot tamale spots get you in a festive mood

Mexican staple is often associated with Christmas, so it’s time to dig in

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3 Photos
No. 1 plate at Chalita's Tamales.
No. 1 plate at Chalita's Tamales. (Rachel Pinsky) Photo Gallery

Tamales are often associated with Christmas for good reason. They’re warm and comforting. You can take them to a gathering and create an elaborate platter with salsas, crema, cheeses, guacamole, pico de gallo, beans and rice. Or you can simply peel one open by yourself and let the earthy smell of chiles and nixtamalized corn fill your senses.

Here are three places to find tamales in Vancouver.

Mercado Latino

5910 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd.; 360-737-6446; open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily

Located in a Fourth Plain strip mall, Mercado Latino is packed with fresh baked goods, a meat counter, grocery items like dried chiles and fresh cilantro, pieces of chicharron the size of an elephant’s head, and a glass counter with tamales neatly stacked under plastic wrap.

Filling options include chicken verde, pork with red chile sauce, cheese with strips of poblano peppers (rajas), and corn ($2.50 each). Mercado Latino also makes Oaxacan tamales that are flat, rectangular and wrapped in banana leaves ($2.25 each) with chicken and mole, chicken verde, or pork with red chile sauce inside.

If you turn around after ordering the tamales, there’s a case with salsas, cheeses and sides like rice to complement the tamales. I like to lace crema, green salsa and aged Mexican cotija cheese over my tamales, but everyone has their own way of eating them.

Dulce Tentacion

3220 E. Fourth Plain Blvd.; 360-993-0505; open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday

Dulce Tentacion is another large market focused on food from Mexico and Central America. The bakery case is filled with colorful cakes and conchas; the shelves have pantry items like tortillas, dried chiles, mole and hot sauces. Tamales are made on site all day, every day. You’ll find them steaming in a case by the register. The shop offers chicken with salsa verde; pork with red chile; cheese and veggies; and sweet corn tamales ($2.50 each). Oaxacan tamales with chicken mole are also available ($2.50 each).

Chalita’s Tamales

4409 N.E. 78th St.; 360-338-7062; open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday

Rosalinda Lopez opened her tamale stand at Northeast St. Johns Road and 78th Street next to a gas station four years ago. She named it Chalita’s after her family nickname. Every time I find myself anywhere nearby (Carol’s Corner Cafe, Quartz Mountain Distiller, Donut Nook), I can’t help but stop in to pick up some of Lopez’s fresh tamales.

On a recent visit to Vancouver Mall, I noticed that a second Chalita’s location had opened in the food court there. It’s nice to have a place to sit and enjoy these delicious bundles of steamed masa topped with salsa and other fixings instead of nibbling them in my car.

The menu includes plates with two tamales (pork, chicken, rajas and cheese) for $7.50. Toppings include red tomato salsa or green tomatillo salsa as well as avocado sauce, sour cream and cotija cheese. The other options are one tamale with rice and beans ($7.50), two tamales topped with pico de gallo ($7.50), and Chalita’s mix combo (three tamales for $8). Tamales can also be bought a la carte ($3 each).

Rachel Pinsky: