How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Tamales mania in El Sereno

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Tamales! What can be better this time of year? I ventured over to the L.A. Tamale Throwdown in El Sereno after it kicked off this afternoon to take a few photos and, well, eat tamales.

Like most other people who make tamales for the holidays, I make them once a year - just once, because it's hard work - and am usually sick of them by the day after Christmas. But it's been almost a year, as I'm sure it has for many tamalistas, so now is the time to start indulging again.

The event itself was a hoot: vendor stands selling tamales, aguas frescas, pupusas and other staples, great music, artesanias, and a trophy-laden table of lucky judges onstage, eating steaming plates submitted by the city's tamal purveyors. (Don't know what the grand prize is, but I'll bet it's not a year's supply of masa.) Best thing is that it runs through 10 p.m. Saturday.

My favorite innovative tamal tonight? The chile relleno tamal, with the masa stuffed inside the chile, then wrapped in a corn husk and cooked like a tamal. Mmmm.

The tamales are being served in the parking lot of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Rose Hills at 4255 Browne Avenue in Los Angeles. Entry is free, though the tamales aren't.

There is a Facebook page with more details.

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