On Friday evening, Calle 24 brought together 10 community organizations and six different restaurants to the 24th Street BART Plaza to celebrate community resources — and tamales.
Rain interfered and moved the event to the tented vaccination site at 24th and Capp streets, where conversation in the busy tents included bivalent boosters, free testing, and the relative merits of a banana-leaf and corn-husk wrappings. The site is run by Unidos en Salud/United in Health, a three-year-long collaboration with the Latino Task Force and the University of California, San Francisco.
The tamales offered represented six different Latin American countries and Mission businesses: Jalisco tamales from La Espiga de Oro, Yucatecan from Mi Yucatan, Salvadoran from the recently closed Sunrise Cafe, Guatemalan from Eterna Primavera, Nicaraguan from Rinconcito Nicaragüense, and Colombian from El Mecato.
“What is beautiful is that the ingredients are similar in every country, but each has its own flavor,” said Susana Rojas, executive director of Calle 24, which organized the event. “This showcases our differences and similarities.”
The event was just the first of a series of forthcoming Friday evening community events at the plaza, which will be hosted by different organizations. This coming Friday, Feb. 10, CLECHA, an organization that supports Latinx entrepreneurs, will host “Amor Eterno,” which will feature local vendors and a Valentine’s Day-themed photo booth.
“We’ve had a lot of issues on 24th and Mission,” said Rojas, referring to the ongoing issues of unpermitted vendors, “so this is a way to bring community (to the plaza) in a positive way.”
On Friday, volunteers explained the differences between the various tamales, and why their country does it best.
Erick Arguello, president of Calle 24’s council, whose family is from Nicaragua, likes Nicaraguan tamales best, because they’re large and include potato, rice, peas, and chicken or pork. “There’s a whole meal inside,” he said.
Nelson, a volunteer with Unidos en Salud/United in Health, the collaboration between the Latino Task Force and UCSF, likes Salvadoran tamales: “it’s just chicken; it’s straight to the point.”
The event was slated to run from 6 p.m. to whenever supplies ran out, and there wasn’t a tamale in sight by 6:30 pm.
Mission Local reporter Chuqin Jiang, born in China and without a family stake in the game, did a taste test of five tamales.
First off, it was her first tamale tasting experience, and she was impressed by how rich and unique the flavor of tamales can be!
It is covered with two layers of corn husk. It’s the first one I finished because the portion is small. Inside the husk there is a corn dough filled with seasoned chicken.
It’s called toteados. It’s wrapped with banana leaves and a layer of paper. The portion is slightly bigger than the Jalisco tamale, but the flavor is similar. I can’t really tell the difference, except for the wrap. But I feel like the marinated chicken and meat are wrapped, instead of stuffed, in the dough.
It was my favorite tamale, because its unique taste stood out. The tamale is square-shaped, and the portion was large. It’s wrapped with two layers of banana leaves. There are eggs, chicken and pork with bones in, carrot and potato with rice in it.
It is a mix of beans, seasoned chicken, chili and rice. Part of it is a smooth, creamy puree, which I liked.
It is wrapped with banana leaves and paper. The filling, wrapped in white corn dough, is more orange and red. It’s more sweet and sour than the others. … My assumption was tomato. But according to the introduction, there is a unique ingredient, called achiote paste.
The event was organized by Calle 24, and featured tables from Unidos en Salud/United in Health, the Latino Task Force, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, The Gubbio Project, Bay Area Community Resources, CHALK, and CLECHA.
And that is why this vegetarian ended up weighing 118# after 3 weeks in Nicaragua in 1987.