When my friends and I stepped out of the 137th Street station on the 1 train on the way to a friend's get-together, we all thought the same thing: what would we eat for dinner? How fortuitous it was for us to turn left and behold one of the most beautiful sights in Harlem: a woman selling a variety of tamales out of a street cart. It's like it was there, just for us...along with the other gazillion people who come hungry out of that station.
I may not have eaten many tamales in my life, but every experience I have had has been a good one. You can't really go wrong with a log of steamed corn dough filled with goodies, or to put it another way, protein wrapped in some kind of starch tends to make for a happy belly. I eventually settled on the oaxaquenos (chicken mole) and the queso (cheese and jalapeno). The tamales lady quickly wrapped each one in foil and placed them in a black plastic bag along with a clump of napkins wrapped around a fork. I hadn't even gone a block up Broadway before I found myself unwrapping the warm oaxaquenos tamal and getting my hands messy shoving mole sauce covered chunklets of soft corn mash into my mouth. I later devoured the queso tamal, which I loved for its hot jalapeno kick.
The tamales are somewhat flat and not very big—you might need three to feel satisfied—but for only $1 each, there's no reason to complain. The temptation to buy a bag of 10 and freeze them at home did arise (frozen dumplings are a staple food of mine; why not tamales?), but I was already carrying too many things. Next time, perhaps.
137th Street and Broadway, Harlem NY 10031 (map)