>> Mi Ranchito Veracruz | Eat the World Los Angeles

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Mi Ranchito Veracruz

MÉXICO 🇲🇽
(VERACRUZ)
Saticoy Street facade
COVID-19 UPDATE: The small dining room is open, although the restaurant seems to do mostly pickup and delivery business.


A sandwich board with handwritten promises of tamales and empanadas is placed out on Saticoy Street somewhat optimistically, for there is not much more than a smattering of foot traffic in this domain of ghost kitchens and light industrial lots. You will most likely have an 18 wheeler in your rear view mirror as you try to pull over to park. But as December continues to make the hunger pangs for tamales stronger, this (far) North Hollywood spot is worth fighting for the road against DoorDash drivers and aggressive long haulers.

Inside, the restaurant is decorated for Christmas in early December and feels very homey throughout. Colorful handwritten menus are just as welcoming as the people, and a backstory of Veracruz-style tamales on one side of the restaurant and wall art on the other direct you to the star of the show. In addition, there is a running count of tamales sold since the start in 2017, up to 77,250 during this visit.

Tamal wall art: making tamales the hard way since 2017

Wanting to take the tamales home to share, they were ordered to go and the rest of the menu was looked over. Lots of Mexican standards seem to be done here, but in addition to tacos and burritos, they have pozole, pechuga mole negro, and even a birria de res plate to satisfy current trends. Jars of the mole negro and Veracruz-style salsa macha can also be purchased to take home.

A plate of Chef Robert tacos ($12, below) was chosen for the sit down meal because it sounded something of a chef special. A good portion of carne asada adorns each toasted tortilla, both full of smokiness and topped with onions, cilantro, and a healthy dollop of guacamole. Use some of their green and red salsas to round out the flavors and heat it up, respectively.

Chef Robert Tacos (asada, cebolla, cilantro, guacamole)

As it was confirmed that Mi Rancho Veracruz would check all the boxes of a neighborhood Mexican restaurant, it was also noticed that the other Veracruz-style food they make daily are corn masa empanadas, sold individually ($5) or as plates of two ($8.50), dressed with salsa verde, lettuce, crumbled cheese, and sour cream.

They come in five varieties, so one of each was ordered to eat later. When this is done, they pack the toppings separately so things do not get soggy and it all can be constructed at home after reheating the empanadas.

Five tamales packed for takeout with all the toppings

Besides the pollo guisado, the other four fillings are non-meat, including flor de calabasa, rajas con queso, mushroom, and bean and cheese. Both the chicken and mushroom versions seemed to inspire the most head nodding, but all five were indeed satisfying.

In the city of Heroica Veracruz, you are likely to find vendors with empanadas that have fresh seafood fillings, but this is probably less practical (not to mention cost prohibitive) in the Valley, leading to this pared down list of five.

A plate of two empanadas dressed with salsa, crema, lechuga, y queso

Another neon sign in the window shows the four varieties of tamales available, and the real reason for this visit and yours. As mentioned, a whole history and description of Veracruz-style tamales is written out on the wall next to the menu and counter, telling what makes these different.

First and foremost, you will notice that they are larger than average and wrapped up in banana leaves rather than corn husks. Their contents are somewhat more intermingling with the masa rather than inside of it, so this helps keep everything inside as the banana leaves are a more protective barrier.

Pack of four tamales to go, with extra mole negro and salsa roja

Why not grab one of each of their four tamales ($5 each, above and below), available in pollo en mole negro, rajas con queso, pollo en salsa verde, and puerco en salsa roja. Tamales stand up very well to freezing, so buy more than necessary for the next meal as you might be craving them again after having just one of each.

An extra side of mole negro will come along with any order of the tamal de pollo en mole negro (below). While there is a full slick of mole running through the tamal, drenching it with the rest of the thick liquid is advised, as none of its deliciousness should go to waste.

Tamal de mole negro de pollo

Tamales de pollo en salsa verde y puerco en salsa roja

The other meat tamales allow you to get a real sense of how the banana leaves hold in the flavors of the salsa and let it soak through the masa during the cooking process. You can take some of the salsas and add more to the top after unwrapping, but both are already infused with plenty. Even bites of pure masa are full of the flavors of both the salsa and the meat.

This is even more the case with the rajas con queso (below), where the masa looks plain but is spicy with the heat of jalapeños buried within. Strands of unmelted queso fresco are there as well, and despite it being the only vegetarian option, it might be the best of the bunch.

Tamal de rajas con queso

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