>> Tamales Elena Y Antojitos | Eat the World Los Angeles

Monday, 23 November 2020

Tamales Elena Y Antojitos

MÉXICO 🇲🇽
(GUERRERO)

 
[COVID-19 UPDATE: Without much interior space to begin with, business is humming along almost as usual, with takeout and pickup orders dominating the day. Five or six tables in front with umbrellas create a comfortable spot to dine-in. Notable now that LA County has announced an outdoor dining lockdown shortly, the restaurant has a drive-thru window.]
 
For a restaurant born in the pandemic, Tamales Elena Y Anojitos seems to have their game together very well. This is probably due to many of their recipes and offerings already having been honed at the food truck of the same name that has offered comida guerrerense in Watts for 13 years now. Before that, there were more informal stands/shopping carts and hours. This tradition has come through.

The grand opening of the expanding family business came back in July, and just like at the truck the pozole was the feature of much enthusiasm throughout LA food media, and for good reason. Now that the weather has cooled down significantly and the pozole offerings have expanded, circling back to the Bell Gardens restaurant is a really good idea.
 

More on pozole in a bit, because it would be remiss to not begin with the namesake dish of chef Maria Elena Lorenzo and what all the family's success has stemmed from: Guerrero-style banana leaf-wrapped tamales of many varieties. These are a bit weightier than what might be considered a "standard" tamal, whatever that means, but they are also bigger and require more work.

No matter which filling you select, a tamal de hoja de plátano (above) will run $3.50, although an order of two might get you close to a full meal. The best pair are also only for carnivores, the pork in red sauce and chicken in green. Both are served with extra salsa that is deemed completely unnecessary by how delicious they are alone. Tender meats, lard-laced masa, and rich and spicy salsas within make for plenty to savor.


To continue sampling the wonders of Guerrero state, there are some daily specials that all sound wonderful like tostadas de tinga de res or enchiladas de pollo y papa. Or you can place an order everyday for their mole costeño ($14, above), which can be enjoyed with either chicken or pork. This red mole would appear black with much less than direct sunlight, for it is thick and dark. The red chile costeño that gives the dish its name is touched by cinnamon ever so gently.

If interested in the final word of the restaurant's name, diners can try possibly Acapulco's most ubiquitous antojito, the thick masa discs known as picadas. On the menu there is no description of these, only the choice between red and green salsa. They are happy to explain everything, but this along with some other Guerrero specialties is an offering mostly to those in the know, residents of Los Angeles with roots in the state. Picadas have beans, crema, cheese, and purple onions on top of the salsa of your choice.


 
In the beginning, it seemed that outside of Thursdays (do read more about the beloved Guerrero tradition of jueves pozolero!), the only pozole regularly offered would be the pozole rojo. But verde and blanco now have been placed on the everyday menu due to such universal praise and demand. A "small" pozole verde ($12, above) is anything but small, and comes with a vast setup of toppings to make your bowl just as desired.
 
This is an important component of eating pozole, especially in Acapulco, almost as important as the ingredients of the soup itself. Here you can take your pozole with either pork or chicken, but do note that the broth contains both. Highly recommended.



For those that eat neither, the restaurant goes above and beyond with a respectable bowl of vegan elopozole ($12/15, above), made with corn and mushrooms. It comes with a good toppings dish as well, minus the fried pork skin of course.

Those that do not eat meat can also enjoy the tamales, with both spinach and cheese and mushroom versions available daily (and shown in the top photo). If you are short on stomach space and eat meat, those versions with pork and chicken were highly superior in each case.

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