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Tex Mex Ahi and Cheesy Rice Tamales

Seared tex-mex ahi tuna with a dollop of fresh creamy guacamole and a side of cheesy rice tamales makes the perfect way to celebrate Cinco De Mayo or any casual gathering. 

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It all started out with finding 2 perfectly ripe avocados at the market. That seriously never happens in Hong Kong. In addition, several weeks ago I purchased a bag of dried corn husks as I thought to myself I have always wanted to make the real traditional tamales from scratch but after several attempts to gathering the ingredients so far away from Mexico, I had given up all hope.

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Until today...

I really did not have a plan when I started this recipe but I just closed the door to my kitchen and started to work in Bam's Test Kitchen. I love experimenting to create new recipe with the things I have on hand. Don't you? Sometimes our creations do not turn out as planned and other times like this one I could not have been more pleased.

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I started out by making a rather traditional guacamole as I could not wait to get snacking on my guacamole whilst I worked on the rest of the dish. Well at least it was kind of traditional, except I had to swap out lemons for the limes. When you ask for limes in Hong Kong they bring you lemons and when you ask for lemons they bring you limes. Go figure! Lemons and limes are both tart and they reduce the oxidizing process of the avocados so why not give it a try.

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I then just scratched my head as I looked at my dried corn husks soaking in some warm water.  I knew my boys were not going to be real fond of the texture that a traditional tamale has with the cornmeal and the lard but I knew they would love the spice and the flavors of a traditional tamale. I opted to switch out the high fat lard with rice, spice and cheese and it was a big hit. I just love the sweet corn essence that the corn husks give to the filling when they are steamed.

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These cheesy rice tamales were a huge hit and even a huger hit the next day for lunch. I think these would be great at a party as you do not even need a plate to eat them and they can be made in advance, so that is a huge plus. If you can't find dried corn husks, save the fresh corn husks the next time you buy corn on the cob. If you use the fresh ones, it might even be easier as they are already soft and pliable and ready for action. The dried ones needed to be soaked in warm water for at least 1 hour to get soft and pliable and I had to keep rewarming the water every once in a while.

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The next trick is to not overfill the husk. I repeat! Do not overfill the corn husks. I know you will be tempted to do that and then they will burst at the seams and you will lose style points.

It is important that you leave room to fold over length wise on both sides and then up at the ends. Then I cut up one pre-soaked corn husk lengthwise and tie a square knot to secure the husk in place. You can get all fancy and make bows or even shape yours into a peacock. Just checking to make sure you are all still with me here...You can also opt for the old fashion way of making a tamale with just using more than one husk and overlap. Whatever suits your fancy.

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You can make a carload of these cheesy rice tamales as they are even great reheated the next day. I used a Chinese bamboo steamer as that is what I have but there is not need to for that. As long as you have a pot and some type of lid, you are good to go.

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As you know I am always on the quest to find new ways to disguise fish for my teenagers. I have made grilled Cajun Blackened Cod with Tex-Mex seasoning that they loved and I have also shared my recipe for my Sesame Crusted Seared Tuna that is a huge hit in our home. Today, I mixed the 2 concepts and came up with a lovely Tex-Mex Seared ahi that was just to die for. Spicy, fresh and bold flavors mix with the creamy guacamole and it is a match made in heaven.

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Making guacamole and seared ahi tuna can be on the table in about 20 minutes. However, making and wrapping the tamales is a little time consuming so please allow about 1 hours time if you wish to make the complete recipe. Wishing everyone a super week and if you are celebrating Cinco de Mayo wishing you and your family the best.



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Healthy World Cuisine (HWC) Magazine is committed to provide a lifestyle traveling culinary experience featuring fresh ingredients, easy recipe preparation and culinary enjoyment. READ MORE...

Tex Mex Ahi and Cheesy Rice Tamales

By HWC Magazine  , , , , , , , ,   

May 1, 2014

Seared tex-mex ahi tuna with a dollop of fresh creamy guacamole and a side of cheesy rice tamales.

  • Cook: 1 hr
  • Yields: 4 Adults or 1 Hungry Teenager


Cheesy Rice Tamales

corn husks - 14 large dried or fresh

canola oil - 1 tablespoon

onion - 1 chopped

red bell pepper - 1/4 cup chopped (save extra for garnish)

green bell pepper - 1/4 cup chopped

yellow bell pepper - 1/4 cup chopped

rice - 2 cups cooked brown/white

taco seasoning - 2 teaspoons (or your own homemade version with chili powder, paprika, onion powder, sea salt, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and red pepper flakes)

corn - 1/2 cup cooked

cilantro - handful chopped (reserve some for garnish)

cheese - 1 cup grated (I used pepper jack as my boys like it spicy but can use a cheddar if you like it mild.)

cooking spray - coat each corn husk before adding filling


avocado - 2 whole

lemon juice - juice of one lemon/lime

onion - 1/8 cup finely chopped

garlic - 1 clove minced

cumin powder - 1 teaspoon

salt and pepper - to taste

cilantro - 1 tablespoon chopped

Tex Mex Ahi Tuna

tuna (sushi grade) - 4 fillets (about 1.5 pounds it depends on how big your tuna steaks are)

chili powder - 2-3 teaspoons or to taste- depending on how spicy you like it

cumin powder - 2-3 teaspoons

garlic powder - 1 teaspoon

pepper - 1 teaspoon

taco seasoning - 2 teaspoons (or your own homemade version with chili powder, paprika, onion powder, sea salt, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and red pepper flakes)

canola oil - 2 tablespoons ( or other light flavoured high heat tolerance oils as desired- do not use olive oil)


1Step 1) Soak dried corn husks in warm but not boiling water for about 45 minutes or until pliable. You may have to change your water half way though and replace with warm water to expedite the process.

2Make the Tamale filling. In a wok or frying pan, add a little canola oil and add onions, yellow, red and green bell peppers and saute until slightly softened. Add the cooked rice, corn and taco seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Stir fry until well incorporated and add cilantro and set aside.

3Make the Guacamole: In a medium bowl, mash 2 ripe avocados. Add your lemon/lime juice, onion, garlic, cumin powder, salt and pepper and cilantro. Feel free to add jalapeno if you want a  little spice. Set aside.

4Assemble tamales.  Take one softened corn husk and dry well. Spray with a little cooking spray on the inside of corn husk and place about one tablespoon of rice filling inside and sprinkle cheese on top of the rice. Fold each side of the tamale lengthwise and then fold each end over. Rip a lengthwise thin piece of corn husk off and use this to wrap and tie the tamale together. Repeat with the remaining tamales. It should make 12 tamales.

5Steam tamales for about 10 minutes or just until the cheese is nice and melty. Set aside.

6Season both sides of tuna steaks with tex mex seasoning. Preheat iron skillet with a little canola oil and sear both sides of the ahi tuna steak just for about 1 minute on each side or until you see 1-2 mm searing on both sides. You are looking for a pink center and a nice crusty edge on your tex mex ahi tuna steak.

7Assembly: Cut your tex mex ahi tuna steaks into thin slices and arrange on your plate. Add a dollop of creamy guacamole on top and garnish with some chopped red bell peppers and cilantro. Add the cheesy rice tamales on to the plate and serve. Enjoy!

  • Joanna

    Loverly darling! xo

    • Bams Kitchen

      Thanks Joanna!

  • Robyn

    What a fabulous creation, BAM! I’m definitely going to fashion my cornhusks into a peacock, lol – love that! Perfect cool, lemon contrast to the spicy fish and the presentation is awesome. Tuna is a fish that most people love but they forget about it as an option at home and this is a great way to incorporate it for kids. How did you wrap those so beautifully? Your images are gorgeous!

    • Bams Kitchen

      Hello Robyn, of course we should maybe make our tamales look like exotic origami shapes. LOL It was my first time to wrap tamales. It takes patience and the tie up part is a bit tricky but after you do a couple you kind of the get the hang of it and it goes so much faster. Take Care, BAM

  • These look fantastic Bam! Great job on improvising on the tamales. I’ve always wanted to make them too but I haven’t yet. These look like a good way to get a practice in! The whole plate looks great and so glad your boys enjoyed it. Luckily for me, my kids are all seafood lovers… Except the vegetarian and she always makes life difficult for me!!

    • Bams Kitchen

      Another option for you is to add black beans to the tamales for your vegetarian and it would be a complete meal with just a dollop of guacamole on the side. Take care, BAM

  • Oh my – I can’t believe you practically free-styled this! That ahi is cooked to perfection and the tamales look scrumptious. Seriously, what a beautiful and delicious plate. And great job tracking down the avocado, lime/lemons in HK!

    • Bams Kitchen

      Thanks so much Monica! Seriously cooking anything other than Chinese dishes can sometimes be a feat in HK to hunt down for the supplies. I think next post I will give in and do some local fare. Have a super week. Take Care, BAM

  • What a great dish … thank you for sharing! I never think about fish with mexican flavors, except when I make fish tacos. I am waiting to see a tamale that looks like a peacock, LOL … won’t be happening at my house 😉

    • Bams Kitchen

      Thanks Brenda! t is going to be a while on that peacock tamale, don’t hold your breath. I love fish tacos too but this option is so fresh and delicious and would go perfect with a margarita or Corona. Take care, BAM

  • kitchenriffs

    Great job with these! I’ve never made tamales and really need to. Love ordering them at a good restaurant! But I know homemade are so much better. Great recipe, and I love the pictures. Thanks so much.

    • Bams Kitchen

      Thanks John. I am glad to hear that I am not the only one that has not yet made tamales. I think that tamales would be fun to put together especially when you lots of people helping in the kitchen and teenagers just hanging around and eating in the kitchen do not count! Have a super weekend. Take Care, BAM

  • Oh my! Your plate of Tex Mex Ahi and Cheesy Rice Tamales is simply scrumptious. You’re making me hungry just by looking at your pictures. I love seared ahi to as it’s so quick to cook and so delicious. I have yet try my hands on tamales. But I love your version better than the traditional ones. 🙂

  • You are a genius – what a terrific idea!!! I love that you put rice in the corn husks!!

  • This is a very lovely recipe. I did not try tamales before but they look very tempting to try , besides I already have two ripe avocados in my fridge 🙂 Thanks for the great recipe.

  • Juliana

    Such a beautiful meal…I love the cheesy rice tamales, they are so cute! I just finished eating lunch and already hungry just by looking at these pictures…hope you are having a great week Bobbi 😀

  • Those tamales are a work of art! Ok, I’ll remember – do not overfill them. I’ve never tried making tamales before but you’ve convinced me to do this. Of course I’m looking at those tuna steaks thinking I would so love to have that for dinner tonight. Ok – over to Wegman’s – about the only market that I can get not only tuna, but sushi grade tuna (and it’s well worth it). Scale of 1-10 on style, you certainly get a 10+ from me.

  • hotlyspiced

    I’ll have mine without the peacock, thanks! I make my guacamole with either limes or lemons too; it just depends what I have on hand. I’ve never made a tamale. I’m very impressed. You have presented them just like little gifts and I’m not surprised they were a big hit with your family. The filling sounds gorgeous – love the combo of rice and cheese. When we were on the cruise they had tamales but they were so salty I couldn’t eat them – and sadly, that’s my only tamale experience xx

  • Eha

    What a great post for the 5th of May festivities in Mexico! Such an interesting mixed plate – not ever having made tamales am full of admiration as to how yours turned out! Lovely take on the fish too: must put the recipe aside to try!!

  • I adore everything about this meal! Ahi is probably my favorite entree…and I love your Tex-Mex rub. Plus the guac! Whoa, so good.

    PS…I looked for salted matzos for my “crack” but I couldn’t find any. I used plain and it was quite tasty…but I think I would have liked the salted version even more.

  • I am so impressed by your tamales Bam! They look fantastic. And I really like that you replaced the lard and cornmeal with rice and cheese. I’ve never been a fan of tamales because of the texture, but you just fixed that! Genius. Thanks Bam!

  • Great recipe! You are truly an international cook. Those tamales are simply wonderful. I am not a big fish eater, a fact that my husband often laments, but you have inspired me with this one. Nice work!

  • These sound wonderful!!! Your photos are wonderful, too! 🙂

  • Hi Bam, what a clever and elegant recipe, love what you stuffed the corn husks with and the ahi looks like it was cooked perfectly. Brilliant!

  • That’s awesome that you came up with something so delicious and amazing looking!

  • shashi @

    You did such a wonderful job on this – the cheesy tamales look incredible and the tuna is seared to perfection!

  • I love how you made the recipe work for that you had available to you. That shows real creativity. Mmm, guacamole…I’m loving this dish!

  • These tamales look incredibly delicious! What a wonderful feast for Cinco de Mayo!

  • Maureen | Orgasmic Chef

    I haven’t made tamales for more years than many people are alive 🙂 That dish is so pretty to look at.

  • Wow, it’s fantastic how you managed to prepare a perfect Tex Mex meal in Hong Kong!
    The confusion about limes and lemons made me :)).
    The tamales look stunning and I’m sure they taste stunning too!

  • Delicious cheesy tamales my friend! I have never tried them but want to now 😀

    Choc Chip Uru

  • I’ve always wanted to make tamales! I really need to just go ahead and do it. The rice and cheese sounds much more appealing and that ahi tuna looks perfectly cooked and delicious!

  • You’re experiment turned into a gourmet dish! Really love your rice and cheese tamales! It’s usually such a labor intensive dish to make. You pulled everything together perfectly!

  • This whole meal looks divine! I love the idea of cheesy rice tamales- so delicious!

  • I really enjoy your notes. Great recipe!

  • Your home made tamales look great!

  • These look perfect, wow! I have never made tamales before. These would be perfect for “Cinco de Mayo” tomorrow =)

  • I love how you have blended the cultures in this! Tamales are so fun to make [not to mention delicious] and these look like they are a perfect accompaniment to the fish – SO well done!

  • Growing up in Texas where I judged how good a Mexican restaurant was by their tamales, I would never have thought of making your tamale made with rice. It shows you can always learn something new. Nice job, Bobbie.

  • Pingback: Interview with Bam’s kitchen | bluebalu: Living in Hong Kong()

  • Buongiorno, BAM! I hope the men in your home appreciate the variety of dishes that you consistently bring to the table. I doubt there’s a cuisine in the World that you’ve not successfully prepared, modified, and served to your family. Seriously. These tamale are a case in point. How inventive! And that tuna could not be better seared. This was another great meal, BAM.

  • For skill and flair alone, I am giving two thumbs up just by looking at it! Looks delicioso!

    Gourmet Getaways

  • I think your experimentation gave the best possible results! Both the tamales and the tuna fish look absolutely mouthwatering!

  • That tuna looks perfectly cooked, I love what you did here

  • Everything about this dish is so colorful and bright and inviting! It makes me wish I could reach through the computer and take some for myself!

  • I never find ripe avocados at the market! Thanks for the recipe for the tamales 🙂

    • Bams Kitchen

      Finding perfectly ripe avocados at the market is a perfect day to make guacamole, even if you were not planning on it! That simply just never happens here in HK, the avocados usually are either so green it will take a week to ripen or have already gone bad but nothing ever in between those two scenarios. Glad you liked my different take on tamales.

  • Oh my, I can’t get over how good that tuna looks. Seriously… totally delicious! Never tried making tamales… have never been able to find the husks, and it’s almost impossible to find fresh corn up here too 🙁

  • Wow – these look amazing!

  • What a clever idea of making a rice and cheese tamale. Your whole meal sounds great.

  • I am crazy about Mexican food and I have yet to try tamales. This does look incredibly delicious! But then, everything you make does!!

  • I love how a tamales look! I would imagine it would be fun to surprise your guests with one of them on their plate!!

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