Tamales de chipilín are Guatemalans manifest: small, unassuming, but mighty. All it is is dense masa cooked in a corn husk and infused with leaves of chipilín, a legume that Central Americans use only for the hojitas. But the masa absorbs the flavor of the fragrant, herbaceous leaves—it’s like tea in your mouth.
The best place to get some where it feels like your abuela made it is at Panadería La Chapina in SanTana. La Chapina (“The Guatemalan Girl”) bathes its tamalitos in recado, a tangy red tomato sauce, and also offers as a side a pan frances (thanks for that one, colonialism). You can get black beans and plantains to complement it, but the meal stands alone as it is.
Us chapines usually only eat tamales de chipilín during September, the month that most Latin American countries celebrate their independence. But La Chapina does God’s work by serving them year-round. And buy a bag of Tortrix—the Guatemalan Takis—while you’re at it.
Panaderia La Chapina, 2230 W. Edinger Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 437-9492