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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mole Tamale and Champurrado from La Casa Mia

Posted By on Tue, Dec 28, 2010 at 7:00 AM

click to enlarge Pork mole tamale and champurrado, both $2, from La Casa Mia pushcart in Fruitvale. - JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall
  • Pork mole tamale and champurrado, both $2, from La Casa Mia pushcart in Fruitvale.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

click to enlarge JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall

The last time I checked in with Fruitvale's early morning tamale and champurrado vendors was, oh, two years ago. The ladies roll their pushcarts out before dawn, set up ice chests stacked with foil-wrapped tamales and coolers of hot champurrado. The area's changed. Immigrants from Guatemala and El Salvador had made inroads on East Oakland's traditionally Jaliscan neighborhood, but these days ― judging by the ubiquity now of pupusas on the tamale ladies' carts ― the Central Americans have tipped the balance.

That hasn't changed the deliciousness of the molé tamale ($2) from La Casa Mia, which sets up on the corner of International and Fruitvale, the barrio's northern hub. The masa's orange with chile, the pork hunks within are as tender as you'd expect them to be here on the street, and with subtle warmth from sweet spices in a molé that stays strictly on the sidelines.

click to enlarge The Tamales Acapulco cart on Fruitvale Avenue in Oakland. - JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall
  • The Tamales Acapulco cart on Fruitvale Avenue in Oakland.

Casa Mia offers up tall foam cups of champurrado ($2), of course, (also atole de arroz) to warm the working guys swaddled against the gray morning in hoodies hiked over Raiders caps.

click to enlarge Acapulco's champurrado, $2, and torta de tamale, $3. - JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall
  • Acapulco's champurrado, $2, and torta de tamale, $3.

The ladies of Tamales Acapulco a block up on Fruitvale offer champurrado that's creamier than Casa Mia's, a soft slurry of smooth corn masa and Mexican chocolate, but here the flavors of cinnamon and cocoa are deeper, more intense. Tamales Acapulco also offers the torta de tamale ($3), a crackly bolillo roll split and stuffed with a tamale. It's good ― especially doused in raw tomatillo salsa that bites, and the cabbage curtido meant for pupusas― but the tamales from Casa Mia have the edge. Of course, you could also bury your Casa Mia tamale in curtido, which is yet another good thing about the neighborhood's integration.

La Casa Mia: Cart sets up at the corner of International and Fruitvale, Oakland; daily, approximately 6-11 a.m.

Tamales Acapulco: Cart sets up in front of the Spanish Speaking Citizens' Foundation, 148 Fruitvale (at Farnam), Oakland; daily, 6-11 a.m.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Contact me at John.Birdsall@SFWeekly.com

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