There are as many variations of tamales as there are departments in Colombia. Families use varying techniques and ingredients to achieve their own special tamal taste and texture.
This Pastel de Arroz, also known as Pastel o Tamal Costeño , is the Atlantic Coast's version of the tamal. It is a hearty dish containing rice, pork, chicken, vegetables, and spices, wrapped in banana leaves. Every family has its own recipe, but this one is from a friend from Barranquilla.
Pasteles de Arroz (Rice Tamales)
- 2 pounds of pork ribs cut into small pieces
- 12 pieces of chicken
- 1 pound pork belly cut into small pieces
- 4 medium potatoes peeled and sliced
- 1 cup of carrots diced
- 1 cup peas
- ¼ cup of capers
- 2 large onions chopped
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 large red bell pepper chopped
- 1 large green bell pepper chopped
- 1 teaspoon hot pepper chopped
- 4 scallions chopped
- 4 tablespoons ground cumin
- 3 tablespoons sazon with azafran or color
- 2 cups water
- 3 cups of uncooked white rice
- ½ cup of white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons achiote oil
- ½ cup of marinade
- 2 pounds of banana leaves cut into pieces about 15 inches long
- Water and Salt to cook the tamales
- Place all the marinade ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. Reserve ½ cup of the marinade to prepare the rice.
- In a large bowl place all the meat, add 1 ½ cups of the marinade. Mix well, cover and refrigerate overnight or for 3 hours.
- Place the rice in a container and add the vinegar, achiote oil, marinade and salt. Mix well with a wooden spoon or your hands. Let it rest for about 30 minutes.Wash the leaves well with hot water and set aside.
- To assemble the pasteles: Place 1 piece of the leaf on a work surface and place a second leaf on top, pointing in the opposite direction, like forming a cross.
- Spread about ¼ of rice mixture in the center of the banana leaves, at the point where they connect and form a cross. Place, 1 piece pork belly, 1 piece of chicken and 1 piece of rib on top of the masa and place about 1 tablespoon of peas, 1 tablespoon of carrots, 1 teaspoon capers and 2 slices of potatoes on top of the meat, then add about ¼ cup of rice on top.
- Fold the banana leaves up, one of the four sides at the time, so that the leaves enclose all of the filling, like you’re making a package. Tie with butcher’s string. Continue the process until all the pasteles are wrapped and tied.
- Bring a large pot with salted water to a boil. Add the pasteles and then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Remove the pasteles from the pot and let them
- Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving. Cut the stirring and serve in the leaves.
Some other variations of Colombian tamales include Tolimenses (from the department of Tolima), Hallacas Guajiras (from the Guajira department), Antioqueños (from the Antioquia department), Tamales de Pipían (from del Cauca department), Tamales Santafereños o Bogotános (Santa Fe Region Tamales) and Pasteles de Arroz (from the Atlantic Coast), among others.
If I had to choose just one food to eat for the rest of my life, a Colombian tamal would be a strong candidate behind the popular Bandeja Paisa. I really don’t think I could get tired of flavorful masa or rice, stuffed with different kinds of meats, vegetables and spices, then wrapped in a banana leave. It is a comforting and filling dish and one of my favorites.