Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

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Food review: Tamale Mama’s viral ‘tamazole’ is worth every bite

Carlos Rene Castro
Tamazole and tamales are a few of the many popular dishes at Tamale Mama. (Carlos Rene Castro/ The Collegian)

At Tamale Mama, the tamazole looks like any other dish of pozole: a rich, warm, brothy soup made with hominy and tender pork shoulder seasoned with bursting flavors of spices.

But don’t be fooled. Inside the broth awaits a pleasant surprise, a tamale swimming in a red sea full of rich seasonings and delicious meat.

The tamazole is different from your typical Mexican dish. When I first heard about the popular dish from Sarah Delgado, The Collegian’s Lifestyle editor, I was puzzled as to why someone would add a tamale to delicious, traditional Mexican soup.

When I had the first spoonful of the tamazole, though, the subtle flavors of spices and the soft masa from the tamale proved to be the perfect match made in food heaven.

I was quickly sold on the idea of such a creative, unusual dish.

Customers wait in line outside of Tamale Mama. The restaurant is well known for its tamales and other popular Mexican dishes. (Carlos Rene Castro/ The Collegian) (Carlos Rene Castro)

Tamale Mama is a restaurant located at 1342 Tulare St. in Fresno’s Chinatown. It has garnered support from locals and followers since first going viral on TikTok.

Owner and executive chef Christina Leon, also known as Tamale Mama, pivoted from working seven days a week at a meat packing plant to owning her restaurant. Her son, 25-year-old Ruben Vazquez, has contributed to Leon’s success as he is the cameraman behind the viral videos of his mother making tamales, entertaining an audience of 378,700 TikTok followers.

While waiting in line for 20 minutes amongst other hungry customers, a Fresno man and his wife mentioned that his sister, who lives in San Diego, shared the profile of Tamale Mama via Instagram. He also said it took two trips to the restaurant until he could sit and enjoy a meal because the restaurant quickly sold out before service ended.

When it was my turn to order, I was surprised to see Vasquez working the cash register. But more surprisingly, Vazquez would quickly glance at his fingernails while I paused, trying to decide what dishes to order. His lack of customer service during this process threw me off, but I continued ordering my food: a bowl of tamazole, and tamales of jalapeno and cheese, red pork and green chicken.

In total, I spent $18.70 on four items of food. The prices at Tamale Mama are very reasonable, which was one of the reasons why I was pleased with the restaurant. To my surprise, the tamazole, which is priced at $7.50, is a few bucks cheaper than the regular dish of pozole, which costs $11.44.

Customers are given the option to sit inside or on the outside patio. After ordering my food, I went to the Tamale Mama’s outside patio area, which reminded me of my friend’s grandmother’s house, whose backyard was a vividly decorated garden with different pots and plants.

Tamale Mama executes well by creating a welcoming, family-friendly atmosphere where community members can enjoy their favorite childhood Mexican food.

A server at Tamale Mama clears off finished plates from a customer’s table. (Carlos Rene Castro/ The Collegian) (Carlos Rene Castro)

While waiting for my food, a group near my table constantly laughed while conversing about work while digging their faces into popular Tamale Mama dishes.

Then, it was time to get down to business and see what the hype was all about. First in my selection of food that I ordered was the tamazole.

The red pork tamale dunked in the pozole provides a tasty depth of flavors that gently hit the pallet, making me crave more slurps of the broth. The pork tamale makes this dish delicious, and if I could, I would devour the tamale without the broth. Adding finely chopped cabbage, onions, and radish was the cherry on top of the tamazole, creating multiple tastes and layers to the dish.

Lastly, on my checklist were the tamales. My favorite out of the three available options was the jalapeno and cheese because the taste of the fresh cheese and a sprinkle of spice mesh well. I can’t emphasize enough how these ingredients, with the soft masa, stand out from the first bite. The taste of the jalapeno was not overpowering, allowing the cheese to be the dominant flavor.

The red pork and green chicken could have been better as they needed more tasty flavors like jalapeno and cheese. In particular, the masa in the chicken tamale lacked a fresh, enjoyable taste, leaving a disheartening taste in my mouth. In addition, the chicken and pork tamale lacked meat, leaving me to fill my stomach with overloaded amounts of carbohydrates.

Overall, my experience at Tamale Mama was enjoyable and I highly recommend the readers who want to experience Mexican cuisine from a different lens.

Aside from a subpar experience with the tamales, the backstory of Tamale Mama is an inspiring story of how social media changed the lives of a Central Valley family. Leon, Vasquez and the rest of the staff at Tamale Mama have opened their doors to the community to immerse themselves in a thrilling culinary experience filled with triumph and joy.

Eating at Tamale Mama reminded me of my parents, who are hard-working small business owners. Supporting local restaurants such as Tamale Mama is essential to the livelihood of their business. I am happy to pay it forward by spending a few bucks to support their eatery.

Tamale Mama is open for business Monday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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