Originally, the family sold their mom’s tamales out of an apartment. Sometimes there’d be 20 people lined up out the door there, waiting to make to-go orders.
It got busy enough they moved that to a house. Then about two months ago, they shifted things to a food truck, or more accurately a food-trailer. And now that trailer, called Teresita’s Tamales, is gaining rep for these handmade tamales, especially the two signature offerings: pollo green (chicken) and puerco red (pork).
Teresita’s is already approaching 3,000 followers on Facebook. Sometimes the trailer sells out of tamales during a shift. Teresita’s does events, including festivals, and lunch shifts at businesses. They cater too.
And usually two to four days a week you can find the trailer at the Chevron gas station at 8907 Madison Blvd. in Madison, typically from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They picked this spot because it’s conveniently located just off exit nine from I-565 West, and also near where the family resides. Matriarch Teresita Najera mostly handles the cooking, while her daughter Jessica Sanchez, Jessica’s husband Jose Sanchez and Teresita’s hubby Benjamin Martinez assist with the cooking and operate the trailer. Teresita’s daughter Yesenia Stark is a co-owner.
Teresita’s posts their weekly schedule online at facebook.com/teresitastamales65. You can call in an order or order when you get there. On a recent Thursday I drove out to Madison Boulevard to pay them a visit.
Teresita’s Tamales doesn’t have splashy branding or a hipster-baiting pun-powered business name. The trailer does have a 99 health department rating though, and most importantly serves soulful delicious food.
In addition to the pollo green and puerco red, Teresita’s rotates other tamales in and out weekly. On this day they were also serving a vegetarian tamale. The tamales are priced at $3.50 each but the move is to do $15 for a half-dozen or $25 for a dozen and split them with friends, fam, coworkers or whoever.
There’s something appealingly primal about unwrapping food from a corn husk instead of a paper wrapper or foil. And the contents here are the real deal. The tamale exterior, called masa, is a soft supernatural substance, from a similar higher plane as homemade noodles. It’s just different.
The shredded chicken, accented with green chiles, and pork, with red guajillo chiles, are both slow-cooked and it shows in the tenderness. There’s some heat in a bite but tis more seasoning than sweat. For a couple bucks more each, I added sides of salsa verde and pico de gallo. They were both fresh and vibrant, but if you wanted to shave a little off your bill, these tamales can standalone.
The vegetarian tamale seemed to have a higher masa to ingredients ratio, and contained onions, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers and mozzarella cheese. The pork tamale was, as to be expected, the meatiest and most satisfying. Next time, I’d probably order two pork and one chicken.
Also tried the Mexican street corn, which you can get on the cob ($4) or in a cup ($5). Jessica, Teresita’s daughter, steered me through the menu and my order with a smile. When asked about the corn she recommend cob, so that’s what I did. It was as decadent and fun plant-based eat as I’ve had in a while, dusted with chili powder and slathered with cotija cheese and mayonnaise (yes, mayo).
For a drink, I sipped a summery and refreshing pineapple agua fresca ($3.50), basically fruit juice and water. A few yards from the food trailer there’s a plastic picnic table to eat at, and the family cleans the table up between customers. It’s easy to pull for a business building up from something small and a family with pride in what they do. Be wary of wind though. A gust splattered my iPhone with salsa like a Jackson Pollock.
Jessica, wearing a yellow Teresita’s Tamales tee, says her mom’s been making tamales since Jessica was a kid. Now the whole family helps out and it’s Jessica’s part to make the masa. Asked what makes these tamales special she says, “I think it’s the love. The love that we make them with, and the love that my mother has for food and her cooking. If you have the passion, the food’s gonna be good.”
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