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Ask Joyce: Can you give me the tamales queso recipe?

  • Published
  • By Joyce Martratt
  • 36th Wing
Tamales queso is another favorite on the meal table at fiestas, weddings, christenings, birthdays and various other Chamorro celebrations. 

The delightful spice, of course, is achiote or achote, which I mentioned in my previous article. It was introduced to the Chamorros during the Spanish era and achiote trees are found in South Mexico (its original home), the Americas and here on Guam. I am sure they are also in different parts of Asia. 

The use of this spice is adapted to Chamorro cooking and whenever used, the result is always mouth-watering; we say "gof manngé" in Chamorro.

Preparation for tamales queso takes about one to one hour and a half. 

1) Soak 1/3 cup of achote seed with two cups hot water into a small bowl for five minutes 
2) Wearing rubber cooking gloves, mix and rub achote seeds; empty achote liquid into a strainer or cheesecloth into a medium bowl. 
3) Put more water into the bowl with the seeds, repeating this method until there's a half full bowl of spice water. 
4) French cut four slices of bacon; put aside. 
5) Dice half a medium-sized onion, mince two large garlic cloves and finely dice six boonie peppers.
6) Add two cups of grits or cornmeal. 
7) Finely dice or shred four to six chicken breasts with no skin. 
8) Use foil and banana leaves for wrappers. You will need at least four dozen wrappers. Cut foil into 6 inch wrapper; same with banana leaf if available.

Tamales Queso Ingredients - red and white:

1/3 cup Achote Seeds
4 Bacon Strips, French Cut
½ Medium Onion, finely diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
6 Chamorro Peppers or any hot peppers, finely diced
1 tsp salt (optional)
2 cups Grits or Cornmeal (Masa Harina can be a substitute)
4 to 6 Chicken Breasts (no skin), finely diced or shredded
2 cans chicken broth

When making a combination of red and white tamales, do two sets of the recipe and use two medium pots. When cooking over a stove, proceed at the same time; the white tamales don't have achote added and will need another can of chicken broth. 

Each follows this procedure:
Sauté bacon for a couple of minutes, add onions, garlic, chicken breasts and continue for 3 minutes, add peppers. Stir; add chicken broths and Achote water. Turning to medium heat, bring to a boil; add grits or cornmeal; may use 1 ½-cup grits and ½-cup cornmeal together. Stir and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the mixture thickens. Turn off stove and cover the pots. Put aside.

Next step is to use a Steamer Pot. Put water into the pot and turn on the stove to bring water to a boil. While this is going on, begin placing on top of each foil-banana leaf wrapper 4 tbsp of red tamales on one side and the white tamales next to the red. Fold the banana leaf over the tamales and then fold the foil over the banana-wrapped tamales, twisting the foil securely over the tamales. Repeat until you have the dozens wrapped. Place them in the pot and steam for 20 minutes. When this is done lift them out of the pot with a tong unto a tray. Tamales are delicious when still hot. Place leftovers in the freezer and reheat in a toaster oven when desired. Tamales can also be made ahead in its wrappers and placed in the freezer until the next day, taking them out and steaming. Hope this helps.


si Joyce I. Martratt