I recently crossed something off of my Vegan Bucket List. (And no, I don't have the actual Vegan Bucket List to share with you. Gosh, wouldn't it be great if I were really that organized?!) Alas, it is but a mental list (currently), which is risky, because my memory comes and goes.
Anyway, I've been in beautiful Tampa Bay for a year and a half now. I've been to the infamous Taco Bus on Hillsborough Ave a handful of times. SOMEHOW, in the last 18 months, I've NEVER been there on a Saturday or Sunday, which is when they serve VEGAN TAMALES. (And I'm pretty sure that every single time I was at Taco Bus on one of those Monday-Friday days, I'd be sure to state, "Dammit! Why isn't it Saturday or Sunday right now?!")
Considering the only vegan tamale (or any tamale, for that matter) I've ever had was the frozen Amy's Kitchen kind, I was pretty stoked about trying an "authentic" one at Taco Bus, "one of these days."
Well, 547.5 days later (give or take), I finally had one of those days.
And sadly, it was not all I had hoped it would be.
As I mentioned, the only tamale I've ever had before was the frozen Amy's kind, of which there are two vegan varieties: roasted vegetables, and black bean. I tried the roasted vegetable one once and thought it was weird. The black bean I've had at least a dozen times. It ain't half bad! So, at Taco Bus, I was expecting something with beans, maybe tempeh (since they have pretty rockin' tempeh there), and anything else would have been a surprise. I also expected TB's tamales to be about the same size as an Amy's, so I ordered two of them. This is incredibly far from factual, as these tamales are really damn big.
BAM! Check that beast!
So there I was, outside Taco Bus, with two behemoth vegan tamales before me, a moment that I had been awaiting for over a year. What would be inside? All the menu said was "vegan." No ingredients listed, no description. No point in asking anyone inside the Bus what's in it because, hell, they couldn't even understand me when I said, "Two vegan tamales."
I peeled back the corn husky layer and...
Corn meal. A corn husk packed solid with corn meal. And some corn, and peas, and spices, but mostly corn meal. No beans, no tempeh, no nada. Looooots and lots of corn meal.
I have to admit, I was disappointed. It's not that I hate corn meal, but I don't LOVE it, which is who this tamale is designed for: someone who really freaking loves corn meal.
The two omnivores who were with me seemed to like it (or maybe they were just humoring me), and this isn't an AWFUL tamale. It's just... not as exciting as I had dreamed it would be. The next day, I chopped up the leftovers (hoo boy, that stuff firms up in the fridge!) and simmered 'em in seasoned black beans and salsa, and that was pretty alright.
Closing thoughts: Skip the vegan tamale. Get the butternut squash tostada, which is available any day of the week.