Memphis Momentum: Where to find the best handmade hot tamales in the Mid-South

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — FOX13 set out to find the best local tamales in Memphis and the Mid-South.

We heard you like ‘em hot!

Two business names kept popping up, Hattie’s and Pop’s Tamales.

Pop’s is located at 2467 Park Ave.

See Hattie’s locations list here.

The owners both learned at the hands of mentors and have been rolling beef and cornmeal for decades.

Customer Trecy Washington said, “I only come to Pops because it’s literally the only place in Memphis I feel has the best hot tamales.”

Chris Johnson, a customer at Hattie’s, said, “When it comes to looking for hot tamales, you gotta call Hattie’s.”

Tamales are traditionally boiled beef that’s steeped in spices and wrapped in a cornmeal paste.

Gayle Holley, of Hattie’s, walked FOX13′s Valerie Calhoun through the process of how the tamales are made.

“See that big pot behind me?” he said. “First all the meat has to be boiled. The meat is ground up. It’s put in a mixer. That’s where the seasoning is.”

Tamales are popular in the Mid-South, but also in the Mississippi Delta.

Greeneville, Miss., even got a patent and trademark on the title “Hot Tamale Capital of the World.”

Mississippi tamales are usually wrapped in corn shucks - a nod to Hispanic heritage.

The Memphis version is a little different.

Pop, of Pop’s Tamales, said, “This is a different type of tamale from the Hispanic tamale. Their is pork and chicken, and they use a different kind of cornmeal. They use masa.”

Hattie’s and Pop’s both use beef and cornmeal, but Hattie’s is a white mash and Pop’s is golden.

Both said you won’t find corn shucks in local tamales.

Holley said corn shucks were hard to get, and that it takes longer to wrap tamales in corn husks that in parchment paper.

Both owners learned the craft and spicy secrets of making tamales over 50 years ago.

Pop said he learned in 1954.

Hattie learned in the late ‘60s. He eventually bought Josie’s Tamales and changed the name.

He said Hattie is his wife’s name.

Holley said he sells around 1,500 tamales each day.

Hattie’s operation is slightly larger than Pop’s, with several roving food trucks.

A fun fact? He doesn’t tamales.

“I don’t eat them,” he said. “I don’t like tamales. I sure don’t.”