The Traditional Rice Tamales Made in Boruca


Every year in Boruca, tamales are prepared for the holidays. Doña Josefa Maroto, also called Chepita, has the hardy bijagua leaves (calathea lutea) prepared and ready to use; they replace the plantain leaves traditionally used in Costa Rica.

In Boruca, all ingredients needed for the tamales are used raw, including rice, pork, and the other ingredients: achiote, onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, and salt. Preferably, the rice is harvested and shelled by the people in the community. It is dotted with salt and oil.

Then, Chepita cuts a piece of leaf in the form of a sleeve to place it on another large leaf. Next, she carefully places a handful of uncooked rice, the meat mixture with the condiments, and another layer of rice.

The tamale is wrapped in a rectangular little package and tied with strings made from the itabo shrub. The tamales are placed in a large pot with just enough water to cover them; the pot with the lid on, is positioned over the wood stove, which must be preheated for at least 15 minutes, then it is left to simmer for four hours.

The ancient tradition, the technique, and ingredients, make this simple but time-consuming recipe a work of culinary art, and the taste of the tamales made by our friend Chepita, has no comparison.

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Posted in Art & Culture, Food, Health and Exercise, Health and Wellness, Indigenous People.