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[Photographs: Scarlett Lindeman]

The tamales from La Güera, a modest taqueria in Sunset Park, are fantastic renditions of a perfect, portable food. Tamales ($1.50) sit at the front in an Igloo cooler, all the easier peddle to pedestrians and still warm at midday. There are smoky mole tamales with dark black centers, cheese and green chili versions, and sweet pineapple-infused tamales that sometimes hold dried plums. But the phenomenal banana leaf-wrapped oaxaqueño tamales that are cause for celebration. The leaves act as a natural casing to keep the filling moist as it slowly steams in its own juices—like a pre-Columbian sous vide. These tamales are slick with grease, soft as custard, and rich with corn flavor to offset the slow burn of chili from the tender shreds of chicken encased inside.

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When the daily batch is gone, it's gone—so start with tamales. From there, the menu is large and varied with plates of nachos, tortas, tacos, enchiladas, tripe soups, and two types of pozole; though most of the customers seem to opt for the more humble offerings written onto pieces of paper taped to the window. There's tyclocos, simple corn cakes smeared with beans; tacos placeros—corn tortillas folded around rice, potato, and boiled egg—and mashed potato sandwiches, called pambazos. The starch-on-starch sandwiches also cradles lardons of bacon, lettuce, and cheese; the bun, stained a ruddy orange from a quick dip in a chili sauce, is as burnished and vibrant as a setting sun.

For a sweet ending there are snack packs of fruit for sale on a table outside the restaurant. The clam shells contain wedges of pineapple, strawberry, fresh coconut, mango, and kiwi. Or for something even sweeter, try a dessert eaten all over the streets of Mexico: chunks of sweet plantain ($5), deep fried until golden with crisp caramelized edges, then drizzled with sweetened condensed milk, crema, and colored sprinkles.

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La Güera

4603 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 1120 (map)
718-437-0232

About the author: Scarlett Lindeman is a cook, food-writer, and recipe editor of Diner Journal, a food/arts quarterly. E-mail her at scarlett.lindeman@gmail.com.

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