Thursday, April 9, 2020

Tio's Tamales

Tio's Tamales is located on Nuuanu Avenue in Honolulu, Hawaii.

I got my first taste of New Mexican food in Portland about nine years ago, when Pepper Box was still a food cart. That led to my New Mexico trip in 2014, and I paid Pepper Box one final visit before moving back to Hawaii last year.

On a whim, I googled New Mexican food in Hawaii, and Tio's popped up. Huge surprise.

The menu includes the usual burritos, chimichangas, and tacos, green chile cheeseburgers, and rotating specials. The signature here, of course, is tamales. Breakfast burritos are served until 10:30 AM.

However, the green chile and red chile make it New Mexican. The chiles are flown in from New Mexico. It's the same chile, red being more mature than green. Green chiles have that usual roasted peppery flavor. Green is usually spicier than the smoky red chile.

Any dish can be "smothered" with red and/or green chile for a few bucks more, and they will give you a spicier green or spicier red chile for another 50 cents. I generally get my New Mexican food "Christmas style", a splash of red and green chile on top.

PRO TIP: Even if you ask for the green chile or red chile on the side, they will charge you extra, just like you ordered the dish smothered.

With pork/red chile or chicken/green chile tamales to choose from, I got one of each, a two-tamale plate ($12), smothered Christmas style, extra spicy. Plates come with rice, beans, cheese, lettuce, and tomato.

I added more green and red chile that our group ordered on the side

A very good tamale, probably five or so inches long. If you get it smothered, they will remove the corn husk before adding the chile. Thick beans and good rice.

As for the chile, the green had more kick, as expected. Since some of my coworkers went with me, I tried it side by side with the normal red/green chile. The extra spicy versions have more heat, but only slightly.

On my next visit, depending on what time I go, it would be the green chile cheeseburger (lunch) or a breakfast burrito that features spam. Talk about a New Mexico-Hawaii hybrid.

This place didn't exist before I moved to the mainland, and was a lovely surprise to find when I returned home. If you want a taste of New Mexico in paradise, Tio's Tamales is the spot for you. 8.25/10

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