The Corniest Tamales

Tamales have turned so trendy that it's refreshing to taste an authentic version that concentrates on pure, unadorned corn flavor.

There's no filling or sauce to disguise the fresh corn aroma of Panaderia El Salvador's tamales de elote. Wrapped in corn husks and sold steaming hot, they are made with fresh corn rather than dried corn masa and margarine instead of lard. Because these tamales are plain, you can serve them as a side dish instead of rice or top them with chile or any Mexican salsa as a main dish. Reheat them by steaming or in the microwave. Or slice and fry them until browned, like cornmeal mush. Then pour on tomato-chile sauce, sprinkle with cheese and you have a quick and delicious Mexican main dish.

Fresh corn tamales (tamales de elote), $1 each at Panaderia El Salvador, 4015 W. Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 665-5890.

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