A weekly series about our food and sustainable agriculture.
Tucked away in a nondescript section of downtown Beaverton— a stones throw from Portland, Oregon— there’s a small, cozy restaurant that is known for their Central American cuisine. It’s aptly named Gloria’s Secret Café, where El Salvadorian native Gloria Vargas prepares her signature tamales made from fresh roasted peppers. She’s also been selling them for years at the local Beaverton Farmers Market. As Vargas explains in the video, it’s not that hard to make authentic tamales, and true to her word, she shows us just how to do it. The recipe from this video is below:
Gloria’s El Salvador Roasted Corn and Chili Tamales con Queso recipe
Recipe courtesy of Gloria Vargas of Gloria’s Secret Café
Makes 10 medium size tamales.
- 5 peppers (1 Italian, 1 Pasilla, 1 Hungarian Wax, 1 Flamingo, and 1 Green pepper)
- 2 ears of corn
- 1 onion
- 1 cup olive oil
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 4 cups masa
- 1 cup crumbled dry Cotija cheese
- 1 Tablespoon cumin
- Salt to taste
- 1 package frozen Banana leaves (from a local Asian or other specialty store)
- Roast the peppers and corn over an open flame or under a broiler.
- After peppers are roasted but not burned, allow to cool. Remove the stem end and then chop roughly. No need to peel or remove the seeds. Seeds add flavor.
- Sauté one chopped white onion in 1 cup of olive oil until caramelized.
- Add chopped peppers and 4 cups chicken broth. Season lightly with salt.
- Stir in 4 cups of masa seasoned with cumin. Stir well. Continue to keep an eye on it and occasionally stir over medium heat to prevent scorching.
- Slice the corn off the cob into the masa mixture and stir to incorporate. Cook for ten minutes. Flipping the masa mixture until well cooked.
- Stir in 1 cup crumbled Cotija cheese. Remove from heat.
- Prepare banana leaves by washing in hot water and then sanitizing by wiping them with a (highly dilute) solution of bleach and water.
- Place masa mixture (about 1 cup) in center of banana leaf, roll edges of leaf around the mixture and fold over ends. Repeat until all masa mixture is rolled in leaves.
- Place in a steamer and steam for 40 minutes. Enjoy with salsa.