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Luscious Thai Curry Chocolate Truffles & Tamales Panamanian Style edit

Are you ready for something new and seductive? This is your lucky day because my recipe to prepare "Luscious Thai Curry Truffles" is being featured at The Gilded Fork.

This is an unusual combination of sweet flavors with spicy, hot sensations. Traditionally, cuisines from temperate regions of the world, as such as Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and the Mediterranean have always combined these ingredients. This time we are celebrating these aphrodisiac flavors in the form of truffles. Be sure to allow yourself two days to craft this recipe, as the truffles need to sit overnight in the refrigerator.

Tamal4_1 Some of you may have already read my previous post about tamales: The Corn-Quest tales "1", and "2." If you haven't, I invite you to take a look so you understand the motivation behind this tamale project.

I only hope this recipe arrives just in time for The Passionate Cook to prepare some tamales with the fresh corn ears that Cook Sister brought from Mexico as a gift for her. Otherwise, I'll send you some from Panama smile

The secret to prepare the most flavorful tamales, is to follow our ancestor's traditions and to think of the process as an act of love and preservation of our culture. The tamales are a reflection of our Latin American diversity, and no doubt they are an element that portrays unity among all the Latin American countries, and wherever their people are.

The tamale is a traditional food made from "maize masa", cooked and stuffed with different ingredients that vary from country to country.  The materials used to wrap and secure them also change in every culture.

Tamal1_1 What makes the Panamanian tamale different from others is the filling and the rich "sofrito" that adds not only color, but an unique taste to it. We wrap the tamales in banana leaves and bijao leaves for the flavor.  "Bijao", or "Platanillo", Heliconia bihai L., is a shrub that grows wild in Latin America and the Caribbean. Its flowers are called  "false bird of paradise" and add the exotic touch to the local flower arrangements.

In Panama, tamales are always present during Christmas and New Year's celebrations, as well as in parties and weddings. After all, anytime is a good occasion to enjoy this filling, tasty dish! Their aroma is so unmistakable that it would take you with no mercy to the place where it's being prepared. The characteristics of a good tamale are: the flavor, the consistency of the masa, the appearance, and the wrapping.

panama tamal tamales tamale cooking cook chef chefs gourmet panamagourmet recipe recipes receta recetas diva cookingdiva melissa de leon douglass

Tamal2 Today we are featuring the recipe in English to prepare traditional panamanian tamales from green corn. This recipe was graciously designed by Panamanian Chef Jorge Jurado, Executive Chef from Artisan Catering in Panama City, Panama. He is a great chef and like me, his "tamale" experience goes back to childhood family memories. The photos featured here were taken by moi. Sometime in the next week I will post the recipe en Español and will feature photos from Chef Jurado's work.

We have tried to make this a very inviting, easy process that infects you with the "tropical bug" so you can prepare this homemade tamales. Once you have tried them, you would never go back to corn flour!

Tamal3 Tamal de Maiz Nuevo

Yield: 24 tamalitos, or 12 tamales


  • 24 ears of green corn (young)
  • 1/4 cup melted lard or butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 8 "culantro" leaves
  • 12 aji criollo (this is a Panamanian variety of small, very aromatic peppers.) Substitute 2 bell peppers if necessary.
  • 1 tablespoon "achiote paste" (to add color, optional)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
  • salt to taste

Tamal_tio_1 Directions:

  1. Husk the corn, cut off the kernels and grind them in a manual grinder or food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
  2. Place a large spoonful of the mixture in the center of a previously cleaned banana leaf or bijao leaf. Add the filling of your choice and fold the sides to wrap the mixture in a square packet and secure with a thin cord or thread.
  3. Continue until all the tamales are wrapped and place them in a large pot with boiling water with salt and cook for one hour. Remove from the water and serve warm.

Keep tamales refrigerated for no more than three days. If you are not going to consume them immediately, freeze them for up to 1 month. To re-heat: thaw them in the fridge overnight and boil until warm. Remove from the leaves and serve immediately. You can also heat them in the microwave, but they tend to get tough that way.

Talam Pork Filling:

  • 2 lb pork meat, cut in cubes
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup green pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup tomato paste
  • 5-6 culantro leaves
  • Salt and chopped habanero pepper to taste
  • raisins (optional)
  • prunes (optional)
  • 24 stuffed olives (optional)

Directions: Brown the pork meat in a hot pan with some lard or olive oil. Add the onion and other ingredients and mix in with 6 cups of water. Simmer until tender and sauce reduced to a half. Cool and reserve. 

Chicken Filling:

  • 1 free range chicken (5-7 lbs)
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup green pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups tomatoes, chopped
  • 5-6 culantro leaves
  • salt and chopped habanero pepper to taste
  • raisins (optional)
  • Capers (optional)
  • prunes (optional)
  • 24 stuffed olives (optional)

Directions: Cut the chicken in pieces and brown them in a hot pan with some lard or olive oil. Add the onion and other ingredients and mix in with 6 cups of water. Simmer until tender and sauce reduced to a half. Cool, remove chicken from the bones and reserve.

Happy Cooking!

Chef M

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  • by Chef Melissa
  • January 31, 2006
  • 7:20 pm


Picture of lera lera said on...
01.31.06 at 10:17 PM |

This sounds interesting! Melissa,looks appetizing, hope to taste someday…..smile


Picture of melissa_cookingdiva melissa_cookingdiva said on...
01.31.06 at 11:05 PM |

Lera, it is actually a big project…but it is totally worth it! If you can not get really fresh green corn, you could use what we call “old corn” that actually are the dried kernels.  Just boil them until cooked and firm, drain the water and the grind them or process them in the food processor or blender with the other ingredients. Will post the complete recipe later. HUGS!

Picture of McAuliflower McAuliflower said on...
02.01.06 at 12:34 AM |

Ooo your truffles are exactly what I’ve been looking for for Valentines Day treats!

Picture of vlb5757 vlb5757 said on...
02.01.06 at 09:48 AM |

The tamales look really good.  That is something I learned to do from my neighbor but she moved a few years back and now I am on my own.  I have a 5 lb bag of Masa from Texas in my freezer and need to use it soon.  Tamales would be perfect!  Thanks for the recipes and the photos so I know what they should look like, hopefully.

Picture of yovanna .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) said on...
02.01.06 at 07:36 PM |

I’ve seen these tamales around my home for as long as I can remember! smile Ahh..am I wierd to have many of my childhood memories involve food? hahaha

Picture of Tania Tania said on...
02.01.06 at 09:39 PM |

Lovely post, Melissa!  I particularly appreciate what you write about preparing the traditional dishes as an act of love and cultural preservation.  Beautiful!

Picture of Sailaja Sailaja said on...
02.02.06 at 12:24 AM |

That’s a very interesting traditional recipe and well presented too..as usual..smile.
Melissa,what is “achiote paste”?

“The secret to prepare the most flavorful tamales, is to follow our ancestor’s traditions and to think of the process as an act of love and preservation of our culture.”

I just love the way you put it,Melissa.This is so very true and that’s how our traditional foods should be nutured with love.

Picture of Ivonne Ivonne said on...
02.02.06 at 12:29 AM |

My goodness, Melissa ... this is so unique and creative! A beautiful dish and I love your writing about it as well.

I always learn something when I visit you ...

Picture of karen karen said on...
02.02.06 at 06:30 AM |

Oh! In Brazil we have a similar dish called “pamonha” but they are usually sweet.

Picture of Elvira Elvira said on...
02.02.06 at 09:39 AM |

These tamales look great!

Picture of Michelle Michelle said on...
02.02.06 at 07:10 PM |

I love this take on tamales!  They’re definitely something I’ve been wanting to try but haven’t gotten the guts up yet.  I really love the truffle recipe, another thing I’ve been wanting to try, and I think would be a great treat for valentine’s day!  I saw that you mentioned somewhere that you weren’t feeling so great…here’s a big hug from Oregon and a lot of get well wishes sent your way!

Picture of melissa_cookingdiva melissa_cookingdiva said on...
02.02.06 at 09:07 PM |

Gracias Michelle, yes…we call it “rompe hueso.” It’s a really severe cold. It is my third day…, hope to get better soon. I get desperate when I can not smell or taste anything. That is the worst part :(
I´ll be back soon!

Picture of oso oso said on...
02.02.06 at 09:35 PM |

I can’t believe you called a singular “tamal” a “tamale.” Spreading misinformation! Haha, just kidding. Well, once again, I’m hungry.

Picture of melissa_cookingdiva melissa_cookingdiva said on...
02.02.06 at 09:39 PM |

No hay tamal, tamale, ni tamales para Ud., SR. OSO.

Ya vas a ver smile

Picture of oso oso said on...
02.03.06 at 04:03 AM |

:( Va cayendo una lagrima.

Espero que te hayas mejorado.

Picture of melissa_cookingdiva melissa_cookingdiva said on...
02.03.06 at 07:29 AM |

I can’t believe you called a “tamal” a “tamele”....we are even now…Thank you smile

Picture of johanna johanna said on...
02.03.06 at 05:32 PM |

hola melissa, i am really looking forward to making these… my favourite probably being the chicken as well as the maiz nuevo ones… in banana leaves, obviously, as i will reserve the corn husks for sweet tamales just like i used to eat them in mexico lindo y querido. you wouldn’t have a recipe for those? gracias de antemano!

Picture of Farid Farid said on...
02.05.06 at 01:27 AM |

They look great Melissa! Interesting combination of flavors, the raisins and the capers!

Picture of Don Ray Don Ray said on...
02.05.06 at 07:08 PM |

You just can’t beat a Panamanian tamale.

Picture of No soy Narda No soy Narda said on...
02.06.06 at 11:19 AM |

Hola Melissa!
Te cuento que los tamales y la humita en chala son comidas muy populares en el NOE Argentino.
Pero acá los tamales tienen más bien forma redondeada, son de carne picada sazonada y envuelta en un bollo de harina de maíz cocida, se envuelven en una red y se ponen al vapor.
Lo que uds. llaman Tamales panameños, para nosotros sería la “humita” (choclo) en chala (las hojas verdes del choclo).  Y sí que es delicioso!!!
También la humita en olla, que es lo mismo pero sin envolver en la chala (hoja) y servido directamente al plato.
Me encantó tu receta!
Un beso

Picture of Tanisha Tanisha said on...
02.06.06 at 12:33 PM |

Woman where you been?

Picture of Adella .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) said on...
04.16.06 at 06:26 PM |

Hello, Melissa.

    Do you have a recipe for bollo dulce? And if you do, please post or send it to me via email. My email address is

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Good luck, and thank you.

Picture of Samantha .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) said on...
07.10.06 at 06:45 PM |

I am currently attending the Art Institutes international minnesota, for baking and pastry. I have a project where I need to come up with six desserts to make a menu, and I will present these six plated desserts to my class. I also have to make a catering menu from these six items. I was wondering if you could give me any ideas, I was thinking of going for a more exotic theme, I really like the Idea of your curry truffles. I would be very grateful for any advice that you could give. thank you for your time

P.S. Do you do internships?

Picture of Carmen .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) said on...
10.01.06 at 04:12 PM |

Hola Melissa! I’m from David, Panama, but I’ve being in Houston for well over 18 years. I would love to know if you can get me the recipe for “TAMAL DE OLLA”. That,  instead of using corn in cob, you can use some kind of corn meal available here.  Thanks!!  Carmen

Picture of panamamama .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) said on...
12.30.06 at 09:23 PM |

Thanks for the info on the corn!  I always make them this way, but used masa here in the US and it didn’t taste quite right.  Now I know what I was doing wrong!  Do you have a recipe for saril?  I just found the hibiscus blossoms at a local Mexican store and not sure if I just boil them in water with sugar?  I watched our babysitter in Panama make it for us for years and never wrote it down.  She was a wonderful cook….

Picture of Jessica .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) said on...
04.10.07 at 01:26 PM |

I would also love to get a good recipe for Tamal de Olla.  I lived in Panama for a year (1987-88) and one of my favorite meals out on a budget was the Tamal de Olla at El Trapiche on Via Argentina (is that still open?).  I live in the US and would love to make something similar.  Thanks!


Picture of melissa melissa said on...
04.11.07 at 09:53 AM |

Gracias Jessica for the visit! Yes, El Trapiche is still open in Via Argentina smile

Will post a recipe for tamal de olla soon Best regards,

Picture of melissa melissa said on...
04.11.07 at 09:53 AM |

Gracias Jessica for the visit! Yes, El Trapiche is still open in Via Argentina smile

Will post a recipe for tamal de olla soon Best regards,

Picture of Jessica .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) said on...
04.11.07 at 04:24 PM |

Hola Melissa!

I’m looking forward to the tamal de olla recipe!  I’m hoping to try your fresh corn tamal recipe once the corn season starts here in a month or so. 

By the way, do you know of any good Panamanian cookbooks that can be purchased online?  I found mention of a CD that was sold at Gran Morrison in someone’s blog (can’t remember where now) but I have never been able to find a way to buy it online. 

You mentioned in one of your blogs that a Kuna woman works for you.  Any chance she might have some fish recipes to share?  Some of the most wonderful meals I had in Panama were when I went to the San Blas to go snorkeling.  I stayed at Hotel San Blas (and stayed in a thatch hut) and they served simply prepared fish dishes, served with coconut rice. 

I really miss the food of Panama!  I am even growing some culantro in pots this year (it grows really slowly!) here in the mountains of Tennessee.  Oh, how I wish I could have a juicy mango picked fresh from the tree, or a flavorful pineapple from the fruit market in Panama City!



Picture of Lydia Lydia said on...
01.09.08 at 08:34 AM |

I always learn something new here. I’ve only tried tamales once, but your chicken filling looks so enticing that I’m going to give it another attempt.

Picture of melissa melissa said on...
01.09.08 at 09:27 AM |

Good morning Lydia! Yes, it is truly delicious…let me know how do you like it! Un abrazo,

Picture of Catherine Catherine said on...
01.14.08 at 02:00 AM |

Wow. Looks good. Reminds me of the beef pasteles of Puerto Rico. Ay, ahora tengo hambre… grin

Picture of catirestrepo catirestrepo said on...
01.21.08 at 12:47 PM |

El tamal es de esas comidas típicas que nunca “pasan de moda”.

Saludos desde Medellín

Picture of Cris Cris said on...
01.22.08 at 10:44 AM |

Hi! A typical tamale… I have never tried, it looks delicious!

Picture of ko ko said on...
02.27.08 at 04:00 PM |

These look delicious, but very different from the recipe I use. Anyone can take a look at http://www.makingtamales.com
I guess it’s more of a Texas recipe.

Picture of melissa melissa said on...
02.28.08 at 06:16 AM |

Hola Ko, thanks for your visit! Our recipe is to prepare traditional tamales from Panama. They are delicious, yes, and we eat them for the holidays and parties. Thank you for sharing your recipe! Best,

Picture of yovanna .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) said on...
03.07.08 at 05:52 PM |

Awww….when is dinner?! Haha. One of these days I’ll get up the courage to make them. My mom would sure be proud grin

Picture of melissa melissa said on...
03.08.08 at 12:56 AM |

Hola Yovanna!!! how are you doing my friend? I think you will LOVE preparing the tamales. It is a long process, but sure to be tasty smile
Have a great weekend…

Picture of lalaine lalaine said on...
03.18.08 at 02:30 PM |

We have a Filipino version also wrapped in banana leaves. It is usually topped with slices of boiled egg and strips of chicken. I remember having this type of tamales warm and fresh every morning! Thank you for the recipe.

Picture of melissa melissa said on...
03.18.08 at 02:42 PM |

Gracias Lalaine for your visit! oh—-such a great idea to add boiled egg, a complete meal! Best,

Picture of Helena Himm Helena Himm said on...
03.19.08 at 04:11 PM |

Hola Chef!

Queria consultarte de la receta de los tamales, sera mi computador? es que no me aparece la receta, solamente el review.


(En DC ademas de Fogo de Chao tenes otro lugar que recomendas para cenar?)

un abrazo!

Picture of Giselle .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) said on...
05.23.08 at 04:53 PM |

Hola desde Delaware, gracias por la receta!

Aquí pronto estará en temporada el maíz nuevo, así que me estoy preparando para unos tamalitos como-dios-manda.

Tengo una preguunta. Los tamales de olla se preparan igual? Menos las hojas de bijao, claro…

Picture of melissa melissa said on...
05.23.08 at 06:32 PM |

Hola Giselle! gracias por visitarnos—- Ref a los tamales de olla, hay dos estilos que conozco para prepararlos: la primera es mezclando todos los ingredientes al final, o sea se combina la masa sazonada y el pollo en presas guisado. La segunda forma para presentarlo es manteniendo la masa sazonada y el pollo guisado separados hasta el momento de servir el plato.  Al momento de servir, se coloca una porcion de masa en el plato y sobre ella se coloca la presa de pollo, un poco de salsa y algunos condimentos extra como aceitunas para decorar. Avisame como te fue en la preparacion… Saludos,

Picture of Martin Martin said on...
01.05.11 at 01:12 PM |

Hola Melissa Mucho gusto!
Thank you for sharing. Tamales are my favourite meal. yours look rico make me very hungry. I hope to make tamales this Saturday. I make with 2 friends 1 from Bolivia I have known for a very long time and my other friend from Colombia. The main ingredients is love we put in making tamales together. And is nice to share them with friends and family.
Saludos Martin

Picture of Chrissy @ How to Make Sausage Chrissy @ How to Make Sausage said on...
04.16.11 at 12:39 AM |

I love tamales, and this recipe looks so delicious. I can’t wait to try it myself.

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