Preparation info

  • Makes



Appears in

Memories of Philippine Kitchens

Memories of Philippine Kitchens

By Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan

Published 2006

  • About

We learned this technique of making tamales from Mary Ann Tayag’s family cook, Juana Tuazon Miranda, who cooked in Claude Tayag’s beautifully reconstructed old-fashioned Filipino kitchen in Angeles, Pampanga. The word tamales is derived from the Mexican tamal (in the Philippines, it is never referred to as tamal, always tamales), but in place of the corn flour, Filipino tamales are made with ground rice.


  • Half of a -pound chicken
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 4 tablespoons achuete oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 small chorizos, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups short-grain rice, soaked overnight in water to cover
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • One 1-pound package banana leaves
  • 16 quail eggs, boiled for 2 minutes, drained, and peeled


  1. In a large saucepan over high heat, cover the chicken and quartered onion with 10 cups water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is tender, about 40 minutes. Strain, reserving the stock. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and shred it. Set aside.
  2. In a medium skillet over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the achuete oil. Add the onion and carrot and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the chorizos and shredded chicken and cook to warm through, 3 to 5 minutes. Add ½ teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
  3. Drain the rice, place it in a food processor, and process until finely ground. Strain through a medium-mesh strainer. Take any solids that didn’t go through the strainer and process them again until they are ground fine enough to fit through the strainer. You will have about 5 cups galapong [ground rice].
  4. Combine the galapong with 7 cups of the chicken stock, the remaining 2 tablespoons achuete oil, and the remaining tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened (like polenta), 3 to 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and whisk for another minute, until incorporated. Transfer to a large bowl and cool.
  5. Clean the banana leaf sections by wiping them on both sides with a damp paper towel. Pass the leaves over a medium flame on both sides to soften. Cut out sixteen 10-by-12-inch sections and sixteen 5-by-5-inch sections, removing the tough rib at the top of the leaves. You may want to cut out extra in case of breakage. Cut a leaf crosswise into 32 quarter-inch strips to use for tying the tamales. (You can also use kitchen twine.)
  6. Place a large banana leaf section horizontally on your work surface. Center a smaller leaf section on the larger leaf. Spread about ½ cup of the rice over the middle of the smaller leaf in a square formation and top with about ¼ cup of the chicken mixture. Nestle in a quail egg. Fold over the sides, first lengthwise, then widthwise. Place seam side down and tie the packages closed crosswise and lengthwise (like a present) with the banana leaf strips.
  7. Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a covered pot fitted with a steamer basket. Stand the tamales upright, cover, and steam until the banana leaves peel off easily, 10 to 15 minutes.