La Palma Molino y Tortilleria, 2884 24th Street (at Florida) San Francisco 415 647-1500
The difference between hand made tortillas hot off the griddle, and even freshly made packaged ones is like night and day. You don’t realize this until you eat a fresh tortilla–at Nopalito for example, where they taste like fresh corn. When I cook Mexican food at home now, I head straight to La Palma, a San Francisco treasure, where I buy fresh masa to make my own tortillas.
La Palma soaks, cooks, and grinds dried corn daily to make tortilla masa. This masa is mixed with freshly rendered, not processed, lard for tamales. With these in hand, it’s easy to make fresh tortillas and tamales at home. The flavor and texture are incomparable and turn tacos into something special. The masa dough costs practically nothing, but must be taken out of its plastic bag, kept at room temperature and used that day. It ferments quickly.
For tortillas, heat an ungreased griddle or a cast iron frying pan. When it’s hot, form 1’ or larger balls of tortilla masa and press them out with something flat and heavy (I use a thick crystal ice bucket) between two pieces of plastic wrap. Slap them as they are made onto the griddle. Cook for fifteen seconds then flip it and let it cook for less than a minute, then flip again until the tortilla puffs up like a pomme souffle. Wrap the hot tortillas in a dish towel so they steam a little to finish–about ten minutes. For complete instructions, I use Rick Bayless’ s Mexican Kitchen.
Tamale lovers will also be amazed at how tender and delicate this stuffed masa can be when you make them at home. Be sure to pick up a package of dried corn husks.
Ok. You can buy hot, already made tortillas of every kind at La Palma, too, including ones made with heirloom corn sourced by Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market heirloom bean producer Steve Sando. But I urge you to make them yourself right before you plan to eat them.