Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | December 22, 2011

A Malaysian Tamalada

Earlier this month I posted a blog about the history of the humble tamale and about my wife Cheryl’s tamalada or tamale-making party. My memories of Christmas are not only anchored to the people and places of my childhood, they are also connected to the foods that we enjoyed during the holidays. The tamalada was always a fun social event that was about more than making tamales, it was about bringing people together. That’s why my memories of Christmas are not only about delicious food, but about the laughter and conversation that mixed with the aroma of freshly steamed tamales and all kinds of baked goodies. Cheryl and I continue to keep traditions like the tamalada in our home because this is one tradition that gives us one more opportunity to stay meaningfully connected to others.

Tamales wrapped in banana leaves.

Yesterday, our youngest daughter Gina, who is currently living in Malaysia, hosted her own tamalada. Using a combination of Skype and email with Cheryl, Gina made a list of all of the ingredients she would need. She and Cheryl talked about how long to cook the meat, how to prepare the masa, and all of the other intricacies of tamale making. Gina then invited friends from the nations over to her home to make tamales. When we spoke via Skype, Gina told me that she and her friends had the best time together. That makes me happy because that is what a tamalada is supposed to do. Gina also said that the most challenging thing was substituting banana leaves for corn husks, but they managed to make the leaves work and cooked several dozen tamales. The tasty treats are in the freezer and will be served this week at a Christmas party for students. How cool to think that many international students will get to taste a tamale for the first time and learn a little about another culture as they listen to the Christmas story.

Friends from Nigeria and China.

Food can bring people together and open doors to share the story about Jesus. In Acts 10, Peter had a vision in which God basically nullified the Jewish dietary laws and prepared Peter to meet a Gentile named Cornelius. By removing the obstacle created by dietary laws, God opened the door for Jews and Gentiles to have fellowship around the same table. That’s a good thing and a good starting place for sharing the gospel. Christmas is a great time to connect with others around the table or by taking a plate of cookies to co-workers or neighbors. It’s also a great time for keeping the traditions that keep us connected to others. There are plenty of things in our world that keep us distanced from others. I believe that the world would be better served by the goodwill and fellowship generated by a few more tamaladas.


  1. Loved reading your blog about tamaladas! Love this time of year because I get to have some of my mom’s best Salvadorian Tamales! As a matter of fact we are getting together tomorrow to make a few dozens to share them with our friends & family. These are also wrapped in banana leaves. Can’t wait for tomorrow!

    • Awesome. Have fun with your family.

  2. Pastor Omar, our Puertorrican version of Tamales is wrapped in banana leaves. If you lay the leaves on the stove top over low heat they will brown a bit and will become sturdier making it easier to wrap with them as they won’t break easily. 🙂 The banana leaves flavor over the cooked corn masa is delicious. Merry Christmas to you and Cheryl!

    • Thanks, Ely. Gina will be happy to read your secret for making the banana leaves a little sturdier. She said that the students who attended the Christmas party really enjoyed the tamales.

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