La Colombie à Paris

Colombian tamale

Update: Sadly, Tienda Nueva is now closed. If you’re looking for Colombian goods, however, there’s a new shop selling Latin American goods just a block from there. It’s called Mercatienda Latina, and it’s at 78 rue de Dunkerque in the 9th (01 45 26 11 80).

Isn’t it amazing how you can still discover new things right in your neighborhood, even after living there for two and a half years and spending a large part of your free time walking around and exploring?

Case in point: a small Colombian grocery store on rue Rodier, literally three blocks from me in the 9th (and facing the restaurant called Radis Rose — “pink radish” — which I haven’t yet tested but have heard good things about. Also, they have a huge pink Smeg fridge just behind the door.)

The store is called Tienda Nueva (I speak no Spanish but Babelfish tells me this means “new store”) and we found it by pure serendipity as we were taking a little stroll last Sunday. It was closed then, but I made a mental note to go back, sooner rather than later. Why? The jars of Dulce de Leche in the window, and the mention of the magic word “tamales” on their take-out menu.

I paid them a visit on my way home from work on Tuesday night, and discovered a bigger store than I thought it would be from the outside, selling all manner of goods from Colombia — mostly shelf-stable products as can be expected. Innumerable kinds of corn flour, salsas and sauces, jams and spices, jarred cactus, candy, but also a range of convenience products, things that looked like soap and cleaning supplies, CDs and DVDs. I browsed around, but most of the food products were pretty cryptic for me as I know very little about Columbian cooking: I will have to read up a bit and go back!

I chatted with one of the two smiling Colombian guys with the cool accent who were minding the store, learned that they have been operating the business for some 11 years and that they import all of their products directly. And when I complained about the lack of quality Mexican restaurants here in Paris, he recommended Ay Caramba in the 19th, which was instantly added very near the top of my to-try list.

They also have a bar area with stools, on which you can sit to eat some of the Colombian specialties that they make: fajitas, empenadas, tamales, and even a Colombian burger. And since this is what I had been dreaming about, I asked if I could buy a tamale to go. He was surprised that I knew about tamales: I said that it was one of my favorite things to order in Mexican restaurants in the US, and he explained that Colombian tamales are wrapped in banana leaves, not corn husks. He put a fat foil-wrapped package in a bag, gave instructions to boil it in water for ten to fifteen minutes, threw in a small cup of a spicy pepper condiment and an arepa (a flat, round corn cake, a bit thicker than a tortilla), while I fished out the 8 euros.

Later that night I followed his advice, boiled, unwrapped and thoroughly enjoyed my tamale: it was stuffed with chicken meat, potatoes, peas and carrots — I don’t know if it is the traditional recipe, but it was delicious and oh-so-satisfying, especially when you get home from work, ravenous. The meat was flavorful and juicy, the vegetables well-seasoned and not mushy, the masa casing tender and tasty, and all this was wonderfully brought to life by that spicy condiment.

They are open on weekdays until 9pm, but on Fridays and Saturdays they don’t close until 10pm, so I will definitely go back with Maxence to grab dinner there and try more of their cooking!

Tienda Nueva
57 rue Rodier
75009 Paris
01 45 26 11 80

  • juliana

    Hi Clotilde. I am a regular colombian reader of your blog. Of course colombian tamales are different from mexican tamales; in Colombia we have differente produce. That does not mean that it’s the wrong recipe, just a different one from a differente part from Latin America and the way it looks, I am sure it’s a colombian tamal.

  • Alisa

    Oh I am so thrilled that you have found this. I MUST go check it out myself!

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Juliana – Oh, so glad to know I have a Colombian reader! Just to make sure you understand me, I did not mean to doubt the recipe (I am aware that Mexico and Colombia are entirely different countries! :), I simply said that I didn’t know if it was the traditional way of making tamales in Colombia, since I have everything to learn about Colombian cuisine. I’m happy that the look of it seems authentic to you!

    Alisa – Yes, I was certain you would be!

  • http://fancyglass.blogspot.com lauren

    Oh my heavens! that looks and sounds sooooo amazing. I can not find good mexican food or any south american food for that matter, in tokyo. I miss it so much.

    Near where I am from in philadelphia there is a farming area in West Chester. So many spanish speaking farm workers come there through the year that there are just amazing Mexican, and other south and central american restaurants. I really do miss good mexican food.

    sigh
    lauren in tokyo

  • Erin

    I will suggest you try the cactus (napolitos) in fish tacos. Yum! I put together salmon, avocado slices, fresh salsa, napolitos and sour cream. What a find.

  • Lola

    Hi!
    A Puerto Rican reader in New York here. It’s very interesting to learn that Colombian tamales are wrapped in banana leaves (as are Puerto Rican tamales). I’m fascinated by the fact that most Latin American cultures have some kind of tamal in their cuisines. While in many countries corn is used for the masa, in Puerto Rico we use unripe bananas or root vegetables like yuca and yautia (which I believe we adopted from Cuban immigrants). Our traditional stuffing is tender pork meat cooked with spices, tomato sauce, olives and potatoes. Some people even put raisins in their pork stuffing. My grandmother didn’t eat pork, so she’d make chicken or eggplant stuffing for her tamales. These were my favorites.

  • Xavier

    Now that you’ve discovered (rediscovered) the delights of the tamale, another delicious thing you might try is a pupusa. It’s best described as a stuffed masa tortilla that has been grilled. I’ve had it stuffed with just cheese or beans or pork or loroco (sort of tastes like a mixture artichoke and broccoli) or all of the above. Great stuff! Try one if you come across them.

  • quinn

    Hey Clotilde,

    What a great discovery! Speaking of different Colombian food, have you come across other ethnic stores in your neighborhood?

  • paola

    don’t get confused– mexican tamales can be wrapped in either corn husks or banana leaves– depends on what region they come from!

  • http://www.xwiki.com Luis Arias

    Yum yum ! Hey Clotilde, this is fantastic ! I rediscovered my latin heritage in the summer of 2003 when I got very passionate about latin dance, especially salsa, and I had some empanadas that some colombian folks where selling on the quais de seine (hadn’t touched one for quite a number of years). So you can imagine that I am thrilled that there is a Colombian shop here in Paris and I will be visiting it REAL soon. Thanks and thumbs up !

  • http://www.desparchados.blogspot.com cristina

    It is definately the original recipe, and God if I would kill for one of those tamales right now (yes, im also another colombian reader living in the states). Believe me, they are the best tamales you can ever have, and the condiment…god!!!

  • marleny

    I was born in Colombia and lived there until the age of eight. I am now 22 years old and miss Colombia so much, especially the food. I am so happy to have found this recipe considering that in Illinois I cant seem to find traditional Colombian Tamales-or restaurant. I remember that when we made tamales (in Colombia) they were always wrapped in banana leafs.

  • Veronica

    Hi Clotilde,

    for mexican food in Paris, have you tried A la mexicaine, rue Quincampoix, 4th arrondissement?
    Their jars of margarita…their café de olla…

  • superperros.com

    check this site if you love colombian food, is the best!!!

  • amanda

    I was so excited to try the food at this place. Sadly this colombian store is not there any more and has been replaced by an indian restaurant. I wonder if they relocated.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I don’t know if they’ve relocated someplace else, but there’s a new shop selling Latin American goods just a block from there. It’s called Mercatienda Latina and it’s at 78 rue de Dunkerque in the 9th (01 45 26 11 80). They don’t serve food to my knowledge, though.

  • Alejandra

    Hi Clotilde!!! I’m a Colombian a fan of yours, also a cook. In Colombia there are several types of tamales, in each region has its recipe, so this could be one of them for sure. I am from the Caribbean coast of the country, in my house we always made them with rice instead of corn dough and wrapped in “bijao” leaves (the famous flower of this plant is heliconia)which give the rice a great flavor. You have to try this if you ever find it in a Colombian store.

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