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It’s Called Factory Tamal, but the Food Is Strictly Handmade

Three and a half millenniums ago, the Mayans figured out the trick for turning hard dried corn into supple dough, soaking the kernels with wood ashes, burned lime or charred mollusk shells until they shed their hulls and grew soft and pliant. Only then were they ready to be ground into flour and made into the dough called masa, without which there would be no tortillas and tamales.

Today, few Mexican restaurants in New York brave this time-intensive process, known as nixtamalization. Some buy fresh masa; others rely on maseca, a brand of dehydrated nixtamal. But at Factory Tamal, a small, mostly takeout shop on the Lower East Side, Fernando Lopez is faithful to the ancient Mayan way.


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