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Tamales? Triplettas? Try both at weekend fests

By Tom Hanchett

Love Mexican food but want to delve deeper into Latino cuisine? Two upcoming festivals offer opportunities to expand your horizons — and perhaps your belt.

Lucila Ruvalcaba

Charlotte’s top tamal?
You’ve probably have had tamales. They’re made of corn dough shaped around a filling (sometimes meat, sometimes not) then steamed in husks or leaves. But did you know that every Latin American culture from Mexico southward has its own special spin?

Lucila Ruvalcaba, a Mexican cultural attaché who retired to Charlotte, is putting together a Tamal Alley as part of Las Americas: A Celebration of Indigenous Cultures. The festival takes place Saturday afternoon August 26 at Midwood International Center on Central Avenue, spotlighting the dances and foods of native peoples across our hemisphere.

A chicken-stuffed Salvadoran tamal.

Five different restaurants will sell tamales from Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Will you like the multiple meats and olives of the Venezuelan hallaca? Or the pork and pumpkin seeds in the Guatemalan chuchito?

Pity the poor judges (I’ll be one of them) who have to crown a “top tamal” for the festival.

What’s a tripletta?

Yarelis Torres came to Charlotte from Puerto Rico in 2016.

Ask Yarelis Torres what she’s missed most since leaving the island of Puerto Rico for Charlotte last year. She’ll talk about hanging out at the piñones — tree-shaded ocean beaches — and munching on triplettas.

Never heard of a tripletta? Imagine a loaf of Cuban bread stuffed with three meats. Torres chops up chicken, steak and pastrami. She heats them quickly on a flattop grill, then tumbles them into the bread along with potato sticks and a squirt of mayo/ketchup/honey sauce.

“It’s not diet food,” laughs Torres. She and partner Karla Ramirez pilot a big orange trailer to construction sites and roadside vending spots most Wednesdays through Sundays. Type “El Coqui Food Truck” into Facebook to track them down.

On Sunday August 27th they’ll be easy to find. El Coqui is part of Charlotte’s annual Puerto Rican Festival at Symphony Park next to SouthPark Mall

Triplettas come stuffed with three kinds of chopped meat — plus fried potato sticks!
Las Americas: A Celebration of Indigenous Cultures
Sponsored by Latin American Coalition
Admission free

Saturday August 26, 2017 2 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Midwood International & Cultural Center
1817 Central Avenue
Charlotte, NC 28205
(704) 458 – 8072

Puerto Rican Festival 2017
Sponsored by Puerto Rican Cultural Society
Admission $5

Sunday August 27, 2017 Noon – 8 p.m.

Symphony Park
4400 Sharon Road
Charlotte, NC 28205

Center City & nearby
Carolina apple cider
Indian street food
Greens from South Carolina
Upstate NY Italian sausage
Swiss-German bakery
Blackberry memories of Brooklyn
Puerto Rican kabobs
South Boulevard, South Tryon & southward
Mexico + Greece = holiday treats
Cuban box pig
Snack foods from India
SC meets Vietnam
Little corner of El Salvador
Arepas from Venezuela
Indian sweets for Diwali
Colombian soup
Korean at China Wing
Indian food in south Charlotte
Mexican take-out
Mexican Tamaleria
Fort Mill — real Chinese
Ready for Laotian food in Charlotte?
Psst! There’s a European Market hidden just south of Ballantyne
Independence Boulevard, Monroe Road & environs
Nigeria in east Charlotte
Korean BBQ
Brazilian bakery
Secret Greek grocery
Colombian BBQ & snacks
Detroit hot dogs
New York bagels
Halal Latino
Russian-Turkish Grocery
Iran Kabobs in Matthews
Ramen in Matthews
Russian picnic fare
Armenia in Matthews
Katayef – holiday dessert at Pita Kabab in Matthews
Crispy NJ pizza comes to east Charlotte
Central Av, Albemarle Road & vicinity
Family-style Ethiopian
Dominican street food
Jamaican black cake
Somali stew and sides
Schawarma from Jerusalem
Oriental buns
Greek pastries
Bosnian sausages
‘Tis the Season for Champurrado
Latino bakery feeds a region
Taste Monterrey, Mexico
Tamales in Plaza Midwood
One restaurant, three Latino traditions
Guatamala in east Charlotte
Mexican Seafood
You buy – We fry
Dominican Deli
French/Vietnamese pastry arrives in east Charlotte

North Tryon, UNCC area & northward
Asian Moon Cakes
Mexican carnitas
Beef on Weck from Buffalo
Dominican fruit shakes, pressed subs
Mexican ice cream
Louisiana Viet crawfish
Salvadoran comfort food
NYC pastries – Lake Norman
Vegetarian eats from south India
Indian Dosa Night
Middle East via Lynx
Bahn Mi Brothers
Ethiopian sandwiches
Turkish near UNCC
BBQ from Pakistan
Find a taste of Hyderabad at Nawabs Kebabs
The Patio at Our Lady of Guadalupe
NC fish camps
Fried baloney
Grits & cornmeal
El Tamarindo
Laos in Kings Mountain
Lawrence Caribbean
Multiple Places & Food Trucks
5 eateries for Black History Month
Charlotte’s International food scene
South’s Love Affair with Soft Drinks
5 Places to “Eat Northern”
Northern Favorites: Six More Eateries
Curry journey: Vietnam, Trinidad, India
Spiedies – Food Truck
5 best bites on Albemarle Road
Lao Sausages – Food Truck
Western Indian – Food Truck
Himalayan flavors – Food Truck
Shaved ice goes global in Charlotte