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I’ve tasted tamales from far and wide—San Diego to Cancun, Texas to New York City (New York City?!?!...get a rope). They’ve been manufactured by nameless grandmothers, local white linen gastronomes, and Bobby Flay. Yet, none have inspired me to wax evangelistic…until now.

Last Friday, a friend of mine surprised me with a plastic bag containing a nondescript Styrofoam container. Inside were four steamy hot, foil-wrapped square pucks. Little did I know then that what was inside would shine far brighter than their aluminum sheathing.


My generous gift-giver told me they were Oaxacan-style tamales he’d picked up at a favorite place of his near his home in North County. That spot is Vista's Panaderia Oaxaquena Y Restaurant, and it’s one I’m already setting time aside to go visit in person based on the incredible flavor of their banana leaf-wrapped tamales.

All too often, tamales are nothing more than a smallish spoonful of meat surrounded by bland, dense masa, but these are stuffed with plenty of succulent chicken and a hearty dose of sweet, dark Oaxacan mole sauce teeming with Theobromine richness and cinnamon spice.


Even the masa has great flavor and, like the chicken, a good amount of moisture. This, not only makes them enjoyable to eat, but also the type of treat that can stand up to microwaving. My tamales tasted every bit as spectacular the next day. Just what I like—a delicious provision I can stock up on.

These are simply the best tamales I’ve ever tasted, and something I plan on enjoying for a long time to come. I highly recommend checking them out for yourself. Panaderia Oaxaquena Y Restaurant is located in a strip mall at 1275 South Santa Fe Avenue.

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lisaatpauma June 6, 2012 @ 7:01 a.m.

The truly best tamales are from El Tejate on Mission in Escondido. Also Oaxacan and wrapped in banana leaves, they are rich and smooth (I prefer the pork with brown mole) with generous amounts of meat. One is a meal by itself.


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