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Long Island restaurants serving must-try tamales

At Caracara Mexican Grill in Farmingdale, the chicken

At Caracara Mexican Grill in Farmingdale, the chicken tamale (pictured) is made with shredded chicken, fresh corn and masa (cornmeal dough) all wrapped in a corn husk and sauced with a rich, nuanced mole. Credit: Jin Lee

Tamales are said to have originated with the ancient Mayas. The Latin American specialty usually features masa harina, a corn-based dough, that's wrapped in a leaf or corn husk, along with a filling of meat, poultry, cheese or vegetables and/or chilies. Once the tamale is cooked and plated, the filling is eaten, the wrapper discarded.

Waiting to be unwrapped: the tamales at these Long Island restaurants:

CARACARA MEXICAN GRILL, 354 Main St., Farmingdale, 516-777-2272, caracaramex.com

The standout chicken tamale at this contemporary Mexican spot features shredded chicken, fresh corn and masa (cornmeal dough), all wrapped in a corn husk and sauced with a rich, nuanced mole. $9

MANKA PERUVIAN KITCHEN216 Glen St., Glen Cove, 516-801-1519, mankany.net

The tamal, a Peruvian take on the tamale, features a savory union of Peruvian corn masa and either chicken or pork. Both work well. $6


EL RANCHITO MEXICAN GRILL66 Larkfield Rd., East Northport, 631-262-9704

Delivering a lot of comfort for very little money is the chicken tamale at this sliver of a Mexican restaurant near the Northport Long Island Rail Road station. $3.25

 

AZULEJOS FINE MEXICAN CUISINE368 E. Main St., Smithtown, 631-257-5033, azulejoscuisine.org

At this Smithtown Mexican restaurant, tamales are stuffed with moist, fluffy cornmeal dough. Bundled into one is a spicy chicken and cheese mixture; the second holds a blend of jalapeno, cheese and onions. One bite of either tells you that these are no ordinary tamales.

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