Candelaria and Tamales Go Together in Oaxaca

Candelaria means tamales in Oaxaca, Mexico. Here in Mexico, tradition dictates that the person who gets the plastic baby Jesus imbedded in the Rosca de Reyes on Three Kings Day, January 6, gets to offer tamales on Candelaria, February 2.  Nearly everyone gets the baby and everyone eats tamales.

ReynaMasaMetate ReynaCooking-11

And, it’s not just one type of tamale but two:  One version is a traditional soft masa tortilla stuffed with mole amarillo and chicken wrapped in a green corn husk.

ReynaCooking-52 ReynaCooking-51

The second version originates from the tropical coast of Oaxaca where banana trees are plentiful.  The leaf is smeared with the masa paste and stuffed with mole negro and chicken.  Both are then steamed for 30 minutes until cooked.

ReynaCooking-32 ReynaCooking-33

The flavors are definitely distinctive, not only because of the different moles.  Each type of exterior package imparts a unique flavor to the ground corn (masa) interior.  Not all make them as good as Reyna!

ReynaTamal_1 ReynaCookingTeam

A few of us gathered before the Felted Fashion Workshop started for a cooking class with Reyna Mendoza Ruiz.  We happened to schedule it on Candelaria (lucky us), known as Candlemas in England, the interval holiday between winter solstice and spring equinox.

ReynaAmarilloMetate2 ReynaAmarilloMetate 

Of course, we prepared the mole amarillo on the traditional metate from scratch with expert guidance from cooking teacher Reyna Mendoza Ruiz.  This mole is a favorite of Teotitlan del Valle and made for all the fiestas.


As a consequence, we ate these tasty packages for both lunch and dinner on February 2.  So, who’s complaining?

ReynaSaladIngred ReynaSaladBoats

The rest of the menu included a nopal salad with avocado dressing served in little corn husk boats that we learned to tie ourselves.


A salsa with comal toasted tomatillos and poblano chiles, prepared with a granite mortar and pestle a la rustica — fantastic on crunchy tortillas.

ReynaCooking-18 ReynaCooking-26

As we left the kitchen to sit down at the al fresco dining table, each place was set with a small gourd into which was poured a shot of mezcal.  We picked up a lime slice, dipped it in gusano salt, sucked and then sipped.  For chasers, a hibiscus juice or a little Coronita.

ReynaCooking-30 ReynaTableSet

For a look at dessert, a boysenberry sorbet flavored with goat milk caramel, see my Facebook page.

El Sabor Zapoteco — cooking with Reyna Mendoza Ruiz, who offers traditional Zapotec style classes at in Teotitlan del Valle with recipes in English.  Wonderful!

3 responses to “Candelaria and Tamales Go Together in Oaxaca