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Valley family shares their special ingredients in a popular traditional dish at The Tamale Store

Martha Castillo's Mexico City roots inspired her now wildly successful Phoenix business, making and selling tamales.

PHOENIX — Traditionally, tamales are most popular around Christmas time, but the Mexican dish can be bought all year round at The Tamale Store, where heritage is kept alive.

With each tamale filled, wrapped and plated, Martha Castillo and her now adult children share their special family taste at The Tamale Store.

"(It's) a labor of love because you have to choose every ingredient, cook it, put all of the spices, put everything together, cook it again, steam it and you got your beautiful tamale," Castillo said. 

Martha's Mexico City roots inspired her now wildly successful Phoenix business, making and selling the tasty dish.

"The Mexico City traditional tamales, they are big, they're not small, they're big," Castillo said. "They have a lot of meat inside or a lot of veggies, and the masa. The masa has to be very fluffy and with flavor."

The Tamale Store is Castillo's masterpiece. Her three adult children Pauline, Maria and Eddy, built it with her.

"They support my ideas," Castillo said. "They always support my craziness with the food and all of the ingredients and I want to do this and I want to do that. And they support me and they do it perfectly and they make my dream come true."

Maria Stanzak, one of Martha's daughters said she enjoys cooking with her family.

"It's wonderful, I love working with my mom," Stanzak said. "I think it's great coming in every day and I get to see her."

While there are hundreds of tamale recipes, one constant ingredient is family," Martha's son, Eddy Pimienta, said. 

"I've been selling tamales since I was about four-feet-tall," he said.

Eddy, who's also part owner of the store, said the tamale is hot in the Valley around the holidays.

"Usually families get together and it takes a whole assembly line of people to make the tamales from preparing the meat and masa and wrapping them up, and cleaning the corn husks," he said. "It's a process."

The holidays may be the busiest season around the Valley, but the savory dish can be eaten any time of year when families fill the kitchen. 

"It's a line food line where the mom makes the food, the sisters pick the husks, clean the husks, a different person makes the masa, it's a line, where everybody is talking, drinking and it's fun," Castillo said. 

Beyond the cooking and eating, it's also a big part of passing down Hispanic cooking traditions from generation to generation.

"Because we can go about our day every day and forget where we're from and what our roots are," Eddy said. "So it's good to go back to that and remember that."

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