Filipino Tamales are a traditional Kampangan delicacy you’ll love for breakfast or snack. Made of rice flour, coconut milk, and peanut butter, topped with chicken and eggs and steamed to perfection, they’re hearty and tasty!
Filipino Tamales are my favorite food in the whole vast planet, and I haven’t had them since I migrated to the U.S. twenty-six long years ago until yesterday when I made a big batch to enjoy for days.
Living in Southern California and fortunate to have Mexican establishments at every corner, I do eat tamales regularly. They are, however, a different version made with corn masa and spiced meat, which I love almost as much, but are not exactly the favored bubuto (tamales in Kapampangan) of my childhood.
I don’t know why I never tried making Filipino tamales sooner because they’re so easy to prepare and come together in less than an hour. Ugh, I could have been waking up to their fluffy awesomeness every day for the last twenty-six years.
Although these tamales do require a few steps such as simmering the chicken and pre-cooking the rice dough, they’re pretty straightforward to make. The hardest part, in my opinion, is the wrapping! I think I went through two bundles of banana leaves struggling to find pieces large enough and without tears to wrap around the tamale dough adequately.
As you can see, they aren’t the best looking on the outside, but underneath my amateurish banana wrapping efforts, are the fluffiest, generously-topped and most delicious bubuto that made me wanna break into a happy dance. Alright, I admit, I just might have done a little teeny-weeny victory wiggle. 🙂
How to Prepare Banana Leaves to Use for Wrapping
- Inspect the leaves and discard any parts with tears or wilted areas.
- Trim the “string” like part (where both leaves meet) and set aside to use to tie and secure the tamales.
- Wash under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into about 8 x 8 -inch squares which will be wide enough to wrap around the rice dough completely.
- To make the banana leaves pliable, briefly pass through gas flames to soften. Alternatively, place in a preheated oven for about 30 to 40 seconds or soak in a bowl of hot water for 1 to 2 minutes or until softened.
Tips on How to Make Filipino Tamales
- Filipino tamales are traditionally made with rice and peanuts which are toasted and then ground. In this recipe, we’re using rice flour and peanut butter to simplify the process.
- I used flaked chicken and sliced hard-boiled eggs as toppings, but cashew nuts, salted eggs, boiled potatoes, sauteed bell peppers, sausages, ham, steamed shrimp, and cooked pork slices are also great options.
- Tie the packages snugly but not too tight as the dough will slightly expand during steaming.
Want more steamed delicacies for breakfast? You’ll love waking up to this chewy suman malagkit with a coconut caramel sauce that takes it over the top!
- 1/2 pound chicken
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 4 cups coconut milk
- 1 cup chicken broth (reserved from cooking the chicken)
- 2 1/4 cups rice flour
- 1 tablespoon atsuete powder, diluted in 1 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
- 3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
- In a saucepan over medium heat, add chicken and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, skimming scum that may float on top. When broth has cleared, season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Lower heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Drain chicken, reserving about 1 cup of the broth. Allow chicken to cool to touch and then flake.
- In a wide pan over medium heat, heat oil. Add onions and garlic and cook until softened.
- Add coconut milk and broth and bring to a gentle boil.
- Slowly add rice flour, whisking vigorously to prevent lumps. Cook, stirring regularly, for about 3 to 5 minutes or until smooth and resembling a thick paste.
- Separate 2/3 of the mixture into one bowl and the remaining 1/3 to another bowl. To 1/3 of the mixture, add the dissolved annatto and the peanut butter. Stir until well combined and evenly colored.
- Wash banana leaves and with a paper towel, wipe down any grit or dirt. Briefly pass through gas flames or soak for a few minutes in hot water until softened and more pliable. Set aside.
- Scoop about 2 tablespoons of plain mixture on banana leaf and spread to about 3-inches wide.
- Scoop about 1 tablespoon of the colored mixture onto the plain mixture and spread across the top.
- Arrange the pieces of flaked chicken and sliced hard-boiled eggs on top of the colored mixture. Fold banana leaves over tamale mixture to fully enclose and tie with kitchen twine to secure.
- Arrange prepared tamales on steamer basket and steam for about 20 to 30 minutes or until cooked. Alternatively, arrange tamales in a pot and add enough water to cover. Over medium heat, boil for about 20 to 30 minutes.
- Carefully remove tamales from heat and let stand for 1 or 2 minutes to set a little. May be served hot or cold.