You don’t have to go to Mexico for delicious authentic tamales! Simply take a trip to Los Hernández Tamales in Union Gap, WA where we were hosted for lunch by the Union Gap Tourism Board.
Los Hernández Tamales was started by a brother and sister duo after the sister used to haul tamales to her brother where he worked. Fellow employees, jealous of his lunch, convinced her to make tamales for them too until he left the plant.
Missing those authentic tamales, they begged her to keep bringing them and so a business began. To this day Mr. Hernández runs the business along with his daughter Rachel. Since those days when they opened their small tamale shop they’ve grown to needing an off-site kitchen to cook the masa from scratch and make the tamales then take them to their small restaurant to serve up all day.
As Rachel shared her vision for the restaurant – like explaining why they have a “we’re hiring” sign in the window because they are adding a new shift to keep up with demand – I couldn’t help but get excited FOR them and be inspired in my own business. I also love that she hires many moms who need mothers’ hours. Now it’s time for her to expand and add a later shift too.
Walking into their small restaurant was like a throwback to my summers in Latin America – small simply decorated restaurants that specialized in just a couple dishes. These are often the very best since they put everything into that one dish they’ve perfected.
Rachel gave me a peek into the pots stocked full of tamales that they keep hot to serve for the day and pointed out the freezer where people will come to buy ready-made tamales they can heat at home or call up and order for shipment.
She explained the process of making their masa fresh, not just for their tamales, but for people to buy fresh and make their own. They believe that fresh is best and refuse to sell several day old masa as it needs to be used quickly before it spoils. They buy the corn, cook it in lime, grind it on volcanic rock, then sell the masa or use it to make their tamales.
One of the secrets that makes Los Hernández Tamales so amazing is that they use 100% yellow corn instead of cutting it with white and she said it is very difficult to find that aside from buying it from them. Bummer I live on the other side of the country. I wanted to buy some masa but wouldn’t have been able to use it before it went bad since we were travelling.
We were lucky enough to visit while they had the end of asparagus pepper jack tamales and were they ever good! You can’t get a bad pork or chicken tamale but the asparagus pepper jack tamale was my favorite and the one that won my picky eater’s heart over. She practically inhaled it.
You can also purchase your choice of spicy red salsa or a medium salsa verde. They were both good but you truly don’t need them to enjoy every bite of tamale. They are delicious without any condiments.
We got the inside scoop that they are currently testing some sweet corn tamales and I sure wish I lived close enough to be a taste tester for them.
One last thing we learned about that you can take part in is at Christmas time they make strictly cheese tamales for order because they have such a high demand and need to keep it simple since everyone (including kids) like the cheese tamales. You won’t find a plain cheese tamale on the menu any other time of year!
Los Hernández Tamales is family friendly so make sure you add this stop to your next family vacation in Central Washington. Now I want another tamale….