“Although tamales come originally from other parts of our country, the “brazo de reina” (queen’s arm), better known in Maya as “dzotobichay” is perhaps one of the best examples that represent the adaptation of the Mayan culinary culture to such a popular dish from Central Mexico”, said the Yucatecan chef Pedro Evia Puerto in an interview with Notimex.
He explained that although it is a tamale, its recipe contains ingredients characteristic of the southeastern lands of the country.
Evia Puerto says that there is not much information about the history of the “brazo de reina“, except from different its different ways of preparation over time. “The “chaya” leaf is used as an ingredient, along with pumpkin seeds, lard, boiled egg, onion and tomato sauce, which give the plate a unique taste, that is totally different from other tamales made elsewhere in Mexico and the American continent.
Brazo de reina can be described as a large tamal filled with hardboiled eggs and served in generous slices. The name translates to “Queen’s arm,” which does little to describe the delightful complexity of the dish.
Origin of tamales
Chef Evia stated that there is no certainty of the origin of the tamales. “We can definitely say that the first of them emerged among the ancient Mesoamerican cultures in the central part of the country and, from there, they spread to other areas”.
“In the case of the brazo de reina, it can be said that it represents the before and after of how the tamales were elaborated or adapted after the colonial period,” he said.
The same applies to other local varieties of tamales such as “vaporcitos” (steamed tamales), “tamales colados” (strained tamales) and “mucbil-pollo”, the latter consumed during the festivities of Hanal Pixan or Day of the Dead.
Publications specialized in gastronomy attribute a Mayan origin to the “dzotobichay”, which actually comes from the Mayan word: Ts’o tobil chay, which translates as “corn dough cooked with chaya”.
The “chaya” leaves must be boiled to soften them, as it is a stinging plant, then it is drained and chopped to mix it with the dough, butter and salt, and give it that touch that gives the dish its particular flavor, and turns it into one of the most outstanding delicacies of the Yucatecan gastronomy.
The “brazo de reina” is usually steamed, which according to Chef Evia, could’ve been a Spanish contribution (which in turn, the Spanish took from Egypt) and for that reason the steaming process is also known as “Baño María” in honor of an Egyptian queen.
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