For the ancient inhabitants of Mexico and, in fact, all of the Americas, corn was king. Maize was deified, and the variety of meals based on corn were nearly infinite. The modern-day Mexican eats corn in some shape or form every day, probably mostly in the form of tortillas. But each region of Mexico has a different way of consuming corn, in the form of gorditas, garnachas, tamales, atoles, guaraches, etc.
North of the border, little is known or understood about the regional foods of Mexico. This past June, when I took my students to Mexico for a summer Spanish immersion course, I introduced them to corundas, a kind of tamal originating in Michoacan (shown here:)
The tamal is wrapped in the green outer leaf of the corn, shaped, more or less into a triangle. You can add filling to the masa or simply pour cream and green (tomatillo) or red salsa on top. Whenever it can be found, tequesquite, a mineral salt, is used as a leavening agent when cooking the masa, a practice that dates back to the Aztecs. A good substitute for tequesquite is baking soda.
- 2 ½ lbs corn masa prepared according to the instructions on the bag
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup shortening
- cup milk
- Husks of 10 tomatillos
- Green corn husks
- Salt to taste
- Boil the tomatillo husks in about 1 ½ cups water with the baking powder.
- Strain the water, disposing of the husks, and mix the broth with the milk.
- Beat the shortening until it is fluffy.
- Very graduallly, add to this shortening the milk-tomato-water mixture and continue to beat it.
- When it is well mixed, very gradually add the corn dough (masa) mixture, beating more.
- Add salt to taste.
- Make a cone shape with the corn husks and scoop dough into the cones.
- Wrap the husks into a triangle shape and tie with a thin piece of corn husk or cooking twine.
- Place the corundas in a steamer and steam for approximately one hour.
- Serve with crema mexicana and a green or red salsa.