Shrimp tamales are very traditional in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, in northwestern Mexico where I’m from, thanks to the abundance of shrimp. This version uses Swiss chard leaves so that you can eat the tamal and wrapper all together. (Generally tamales are wrapped in corn husks, which are removed prior to eating).
For the shrimp broth:
- 1 pound fresh shrimp (16-20 depending on size), shelled with shells reserved
- Canola oil
- 2 cups water
- 2 guajillo chiles, seeds and stems removed
- 2 chiles de árbol, seeds and stems removed
For the masa (tamal dough):
- ½ pound Maseca brand flour for tamales
- 4 ounces butter, room temperature
- 2/3 cup shrimp broth
- 1 ounce of dried powdered shrimp
- Sea salt, to taste
- 17 large green chard leaves
For the shrimp broth:
Use the shells from the shrimp and sautée with a little bit of canola oil until the shells become an orange‐red color. Add 2 cups of water and let simmer for 15 minutes.
Strain and add the chiles (from which you have removed the seeds and stems) into the broth and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Put the broth with the chiles into a blender and blend together. Strain the liquid through a chinois. Let the broth cool for a bit. (This is the broth that will be mixed with the tamal flour to make the masa).
For the masa:
Add the broth to the flour. Then add the butter and knead until the butter is incorporated into the mixture, and continue to knead to incorporate air, until fluffy. You know when the masa is ready by grabbing a little piece of the dough and putting it in a glass of water. If it floats, it is ready. If not, continue kneading.
After the dough is ready, incorporate the dried powdered shrimp. Be careful with the seasoning as the dried shrimp can be a little bit salty.
Blanch the Swiss chard leaves for 2 minutes until soft, and let cool. Spread 2 tablespoons of masa over each leaf. Place one of the clean, raw shrimp in the center and wrap as a tamal.
Once the 12 tamales have been prepared, place them standing up in a vegetable steamer, cover with a cloth, extra Swiss chard leaves, and the lid, and steam for 45 minutes. The tamales are done when the dough is cooked through.