If you recall the Carrillo stand, at the Red Hook Ball Fields, with the same fondness as I do, it's probably for those super-fluffy tamales. Compared with their Mexican counterparts, wrote Siobhan Wallace and Alexandra Penfold in New York a la Cart, "Guatemalan tamales are larger ... and the masa, or cornmeal filling, has a wetter, creamier texture."
The tamales are particularly creamy when freshly steamed. I was lucky to arrive at San Martin, one of a dozen or so Guatemalan restaurants and bakeries on or near a mile-long stretch of Anderson Ave. in Fairview, New Jersey, just as the latest batch was being set out on display. The fragrance of banana-leaf wrappers, which are more commonly used than corn husks in lower Mexico and points south and that impart a sweeter flavor to their fillings, was unmistakable; also note the ties, made from the stiff midribs of the leaves. Atop a tamal de cerdo (with pork, $3, weekends only), I squeezed a little lime and, at the proprietor's urging, applied a "picante" slaw (not shown) of lettuce that had been stealthily interlaced with slices of green chile. (Picante indeed; the usual phalanx of hot-sauce bottles went largely undisturbed.) My photo of the leavings, from a few minutes later, documents the Guatemalan preference for meat on the bone, even in tamales.
Restaurante San Martin
218 Anderson Ave. (Kamena-Walker Sts.), Fairview, New Jersey
Also at 385 Fairview Ave. (Lincoln-Grant Sts.)