Chef Ricardo Chaneton shares his family recipe for celebratory Venezuelan Tamals.
Take your tastebuds on a trip to South America with our latest Cook Like A Pro instalment, courtesy of MONO‘s Ricardo Chaneton. His recipe for Venezuelan Tamals is an old family favourite, consisting of moreish spices and juicy tender chicken all wrapped in an oversized banana leaf and steamed to perfection. Though typically reserved for celebratory occasions like Christmas (tamals are traditionally given as Christmas Eve gifts), we’ll take any excuse to indulge in these little parcels of foodie comfort, especially when they’re this easy to make.
Ahead, chef Ricardo Chaneton reveals his family recipe for Venezuelan Tamals. Rest assured, it’s Hong Kong-kitchen friendly (i.e. there’s no oven required) and suitable for beginners!
Venezuelan Tamals share a number of similarities with the Chinese Zong Zi, Vietnamese Banh Bao and even some of the Peranakan kuehs – they all feature a carbohydrate stuffed with a sweet or savoury filling, wrapped with leaves (whether it’s banana, bamboo, corn or even pandan), which are then steamed or boiled. It goes to show that despite the vast distance between the two continents, there are actually many parallels between Asian and South American cooking.
We wanted to pay homage to Venezuelan tamals, a celebratory dish traditionally eaten during the Christmas season. Often described as Venezuela’s national dish, the making of these tamals is usually a family affair, every family has their own style. Best enjoyed in the company of loved ones as part of a communal feast, this comforting dish also lends well to being packed for lunch.
For the Tamals (makes 6)
180g corn flour
20g annatto seeds
6 banana leaves (cut into large squares and quickly passed over an open flame a couple of times)
1/2 onion (thinly sliced)
2 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)
1 green bell pepper (thinly sliced)
1 red bell pepper (thinly sliced)
180g chicken thigh (boiled and shredded)
1 tsp cumin (or to taste)
1 tsp paprika powder (or to taste)
200g sunflower oil
For the Salsa
2 pcs jalapeño
- Simmer annatto seeds in sunflower oil for 3 hours, remove from heat and allow the flavours to infuse overnight. Set the oil aside for use later.
- Make sofrito: heat oil in pan over low heat, then add onions. When onions are translucent, add garlic and stir from time to time. Once garlic is translucent, add the bell peppers and season with cumin and paprika powder to taste. Cover and allow sofrito to simmer over very low heat for 3 hours.
- Make dough: in a large bowl, combine corn flour, annatto seed oil (5 tbsp, seeds strained) and water. Knead until everything is evenly mixed.
- Combine chicken with sofrito and add mixture to the corn dough and knead until mixture is homogenous.
- Divide dough mixture into 6 portions. Paint a banana leaf with annatto seed oil and wrap each portion of dough mixture. Secure each packet with kitchen twine.
- Steam the packets for 7 minutes.
- While packets are steaming, make the salsa: char and peel tomatillos. Chop tomatillos, avocado and jalapenos with a knife to achieve a slightly chunky texture. Mix with a bit of oil and serve with your Venezuelan Tamals.
All images courtesy of MONO.