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This Hidden Mexican Hole-in-the-Wall Makes Some of the Best Banana Leaf-Wrapped Tamales in the San Fernando Valley

4:53 PM PDT on August 22, 2019

If a restaurant’s slogan is “Making Tamales the Hard Way,” that is usually a great indicator that the tamales, and anything else they offer for that matter, will probably be pretty damn good.

Enter Mi Ranchito Veracruz Tamalería y Cocina, an almost-secret hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant hidden deep in the industrial zone between North Hollywood and Panorama City that has been pumping out a unique type of tamales far beyond rajas, chile verde, or rojos.

Banana leaves are the name of the game in this masa-fueled establishment. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with traditional corn husks, there is just something magical about a banana leaf-wrapped tamal. For starters, they help retain a tamal’s moisture, because they are less porous than corn husks. So instead of a cakey texture, you get a pudding-like custardy one with the masa—but without turning to corn mush. 

Banana leaves are the tamal standard in the southern coastal state of Veracruz, where Pedro Barrientos, one of the co-owners of Mi Ranchito is from. Barrientos’ business partners who also co-own Mi Ranchito, Robert Gamboa, and Marcos Ramirez, are also from Veracruz. Specifically, the town of Martinez de la Torre, known for its tropical fruit and fresh seafood.

Barrientos tells L.A. Taco that he’s been cooking since he was 17. Like most people who dream of owning a restaurant, their main drive was to work for themselves and bring delicious food to people. because. “We just didn’t want to work for somebody else anymore,” Barrientos says. Their dream is paying off. Their tamal ticker they update on a regular basis on their wall is at 49,152 tamales sold since opening in August 2nd, 2016, just three years ago.   

Tacos de Cochinita

In addition to their popular pollo con mole, their other tamal options include a vegetarian banana leaf-version of rajas con queso and a vegan one with oyster mushrooms, as well as unique flavors to Veracruz like Pollo con Salsa Morita. Though it's hard not to get distracted by their juicy cochinita pibil tacos.  The flavors and spices in the Cochinita are not lost to the long hours of cooking required to make this dish.  

Keeping their commitment to masa, they prepare handmade tortillas for their plates every morning. Nonetheless, unless you request otherwise, they serve tacos on machine-pressed regular tortillas.  When asked why they don’t serve their tacos on hand made tortillas too, they responded, “Man we got a lot of masa to prepare everyday for tamales already, it gets to be a little too much.”   

This isn’t a location you’re likely to come across easily, so don’t give up if you don’t easily find it. That’s part of the thrill of having tamales at Mi Ranchito. Once you find parking in the back, you’ll walk down a narrow office building hallway to find an office door with their sign on it.  Open the door and walk into their street facing-restaurant where you’ll find a portrait of Cantinflas, Frida Khalo, and a small tapestry. Cantinflas marks the spot! 

They are open for breakfast all day and also serve a menu that includes chile rellenos, chilaquiles, pozole, and shrimp-steak burritos.  

But just definitely don’t miss out on their tamales that they “make the hard way,” nearly 50,000 and quickly counting.

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