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
www.prcsc.org

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