Eat This: Oscar Diaz's Southern Voyage to Jose and Sons' Collard-Wrapped Tamales | Eat This | Indy Week
Pin It

Eat This: Oscar Diaz's Southern Voyage to Jose and Sons' Collard-Wrapped Tamales 

Oscar Diaz didn't grow up with the foods of Southern comfort.

Diaz was the middle brother in a family of five, raised by parents who migrated to America from a small town in the Mexican state of Jalisco. He left Chicago and his father's chauffeuring business, heading to culinary school (he quit) before shuffling between a few inspirational cooks at high-end restaurants in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. On a whim, he took a temporary gig preparing some suburban bistro for an unceremonious launch in North Carolina.

But five years later, Diaz is the co-owner and head chef of Jose and Sons, a downtown Raleigh staple whose raison d'être is mixing the Mexican foods of Diaz's heritage with his adopted cuisine. The mission required research.

"I'd never seen grits. I didn't know what a hush puppy was," he says. "I started traveling around and going to eat in any small place I. I started buying Southern cookbooks. I had servers who were Southern, and I would ask them. I started throwing these ideas out."

One of Diaz's first—and most delicious—experiments was the collard-wrapped tamale, a staple of Jose and Sons' lunch and dinner menus. Diaz cuts the stems from the broad leaves, forming circular flaps that he blanches. He then adds a layer of masa, which he's careful to make moist with extra water and pillowy with baking powder. Over the masa, Diaz adds one of two fillings: tinga, made by letting a vegetable mixture simmer with chicken, or a classic rajas, made by slowly reducing an assortment of peppers and pureed tomatoes. At last, he folds the layers like a traditional tamale and wraps the result in a banana leaf. After it steams for an hour, he peels the banana leaf away.

On first bite, humidity rushes from the leaf, like steam from a green geyser. The twice-cooked collard adds a hot, bright skin that gives way to the medley of masa and vegetables. It's deceptively simple and a touch deceptive, too.

"The collard mimics that banana leaf color and look so well that, at first, people were taking the collard leaf off," Diaz says. "That tells me it's a good move—a really cool interpretation of a tamale."

This article appeared in print with the headline "Southern Accent"


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Eat This

Twitter Activity


We are a Greek family from Dallas who know good Greek food when we see it and are accustomed to …

by Taso on Kipos Greek Taverna (Orange County)

Don't waste your $$ here. Horrible service, mediocre food. From what we heard - kitchen turnover is the issue due …

by Ibaguru on Piedmont Restaurant (Durham County)

Most Read

Most Recent Comments

Is it really that much of a shock that a vegetarian meal can be just as tasty if not more …

by ammi on The Wings Are Great, But M Kokko's Vegan Curry Udon is a Surprise Standout (Eat This)

He is quite a creative fellow and a true people pleaser!

by Ellie Maynard on Drink This: The Blind Barbour Really Has a Cocktail Called the Smoked Turkey, and It Really Does Contain One of Those Things (Eat This)

I _love_ this place -- great food and very good service!

I know the building was an Italian restaurant …

by Jon Howell on Koumi’s Fish Sauce Wings Soar Above the Usual Hibachi Fare (Eat This)

I'll comment because I assume they're watching. I also love Soo. However, I would hate for @frgyandres suggestion to cause …

by raleighispcool on Want Some of The Triangle's Best Fried Chicken? Go to Soo (Eat This)

© 2018 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation