In Costa Rica, family and friends come first, and the holiday season is no exception. It is a time of gathering and sharing among loved ones and of celebrating the close-knit bonds of Costa Rican culture. Not surprisingly, food is a central component of the festivities, and the Costa Rican Tamale is the star of the show.
The traditional Christmas Tamale is prepared and consumed during the month of December and on Christmas Day. The dish comes in various forms depending on the region and tastes of its maker. Its base is a mixture made of ground sweet or yellow corn, rice, or white corn with potatoes or nuts. What varies most is the fillings and what makes Christmas Tamales so delicious.
Fillings include a mix of ingredients ranging from achiote rice, vanilla beans, chickpeas, sweet peas, bell peppers, carrots, olives, capers, plums, raisins, pickles, hard-boiled eggs, and cilantro. Virtually all tamales have a white meat center, such as pork and/or chicken.
Once prepared, the ingredients are wrapped in a plantain leaf or corn husk, tied into a bundle of two tamales, called piñas, and then boiled to steamy perfection. Another type of tamale is prepared during Holy Week (Easter) and is made with cornmeal and a mix of ground beans. A sweeter version is called the Tamal de elote, which is a simple blend of ground fresh corn with butter and milk. From pizque tamales, yoltamales, and roasted tamales to the traditional Christmas tamale, the options are tantalizing!
As part of our internal traditions, we at Böëna deeply enjoy promoting our Costa Rican roots and gastronomic heritage. During the holiday season, each of our wilderness lodges, Pacuare Lodge, Tortuga Lodge, Monteverde Lodge, Lapa Rios, and Cloud Forest Lodge, chooses a special day in December to hold a Tamaleada (group production of tamales). Guests are welcomed and encouraged to participate in the fun and interesting event, which culminates in a sampling of the delicious Costa Rican delicacies.