Food and family have always gone hand in hand, especially around holidays. Spending time together is often more memorable than the food that’s actually served, but some cultural dishes challenge that notion.

Cooking traditional and cultural meals is often an essential ingredient at a family get-together. Every international food item may not be stocked on shelves in major supermarkets, but whether you’re looking for Indian grocery stores in Indiana, Mexican markets in New Mexico or Filipino foods in Philadelphia, search a little and you’re sure to find everything you need to create mouthwatering international cuisine that will satisfy the whole family and enhance any gathering.

Mexican food is popular throughout Europe, as well as North and South America and dates to the 16th century. Native foods such as corn, beans and chili peppers are staples in popular Mexican dishes. Regional Mexican cooking is widely different than foods served outside of Mexico, generally referred to as Tex-Mex. Traditional dishes can often take several hours to prepare.

Around the holidays and for special occasions and festivals, mole is considered among the most important foods. Tamales are also popular around special occasions and is found in many varieties in all of Mexico, and menudo and pozole are staples around Christmastime and during New Year’s celebrations. Looking to create authentic Mexican cuisine for your family? Here’s where you can find popular Mexican grocery stores throughout the United States.

Photo Credit: Alice B Zamora, mother of Susanna Zamora, Sr Admin Assistant, Western Union Digital - San Francisco

Photo Credit: Alice B Zamora, mother of Susanna Zamora, Sr Admin Assistant, Western Union Digital – San Francisco

India’s culinary map is regionalized and includes many vegetarian dishes, including Shahi paneer made in northern India, poha (potato and rice snack) in central India, and dosa (pancake with brown rice and lentils) in southern India. You’ll also find many popular chicken dishes in India, such as tandoori chicken and chicken tikka masala, and plenty of curry-based delicacies. If you’re living in the U.S., you can find markets specializing in Indian food in every state to create the perfect traditional meal for any occasion.

Tasty pancit and lumpia are often staples at Philippine festivals and family events. Filipino foods are an evolution and fusion of Malay, Spanish, Chinese and American influences and are known for their sweet, sour and salty flavors. Rice is served with most meals, and a variety of fruits and vegetables are often used in Filipino creations. Christmas Eve, known as Nocha Buena, is the most important Filipino family feast, usually featuring ham and Edam cheese.

If your next authentic holiday feast involves some travel to bring the family together, use online money transfers to make sure your money moves conveniently with you with Western Union. Moving money for better will help you have access to your finances in thousands of destinations, so you can enjoy every bite at mealtime, and every moment with your loved ones.

Enjoy this recipe for your own homemade traditional tamales.


5 lbs. of Masa Preparada (prepared corn dough)

3 lbs. of pork shoulder (save broth)

2 – 16oz packages of corn husks (tamale wraps)

2/3 cup of california chili powder

6 large cloves of garlic

1 tbsp. whole black pepper seeds

1.5 tbsp. whole cumin seeds

Salt to taste

2 pennies to test moisture level in cooking pot


Empty both packages of corn husks into large bowl with hot tap water to prepare for use. They will float to top; place something heavy on top of leaves to keep submerged in hot water for minimum of 15 min.

Boil pork shoulder until meat is tender. Remove, shred or chop meat. Place meat into large stock pot. Add 2/3 cup of california chili powder to meat.

In spice grinder or molcajete, crush 6 large pieces of garlic, 1 tablespoons whole black pepper seeds, 1.5 tablespoons of whole cumin seeds. Grind to paste form, add ½ cup of water to remove all paste and add to meat mixture. Sauté meat and spices by adding 2.5 cups of pork shoulder broth. Meat should be moist but not soup like. Heat on medium for 10-15 minutes, until meat & spices are mixed well and meat is colored red from mixture. Add salt to taste. Once simmered, remove from heat and place on the side.

In large bowl, add 5lbs of Masa Preparada. Add ½ cup of pork shoulder roast broth if dough is stiff. If mixture is soft and spreadable, no additional broth needed.

Begin Preparation:

With large spoon, begin spreading masa onto corn husk. Apply to smooth side, other side has ridges and will not hold the masa as well. 1 corn husk should be placed onto palm, to resemble shape of teepee. Spread masa on the lower 2/3 portion of corn husk. Add 1 spoonful of meat mixture and wrap by folding left in, right in and top flap back.


Begin with a 20 quart tamale/seafood steamer. Place 2 clean pennies in bottom center of pot, insert steamer rack and add water up to steamer rack level. Layer with 2 large pieces of foil, ensure foil sheets are long enough to cover all tamales and have excess to cover the top of filled pot. Begin placing prepared tamales into steamer with wrapped end facing down (open end up). Continue placing in a spiral pattern until all masa or meat is used. Place unused corn husks remaining or small wet kitchen towels on top to seal in moisture and seal closed excess foil ends before covering with lid.

Place pot on stove top to cook on High for 2 hours. If pennies begin to make noise, this is due to lack of moisture and you will need to add 3-4 cups of hot tap water. After 2 hours, remove a tamale and check to see if masa has cooked through, if so, it will be masa will be firm and remove easily off corn husk. If any part remains uncooked, it will remain attached to corn husk. Also, any paste consistency in masa is a sign that it is not fully cooked. Continue to cook for another 30 minutes and recheck. Repeat as needed.

This should yield 4 dozen tamales.

Recipe submission provided by Alice B Zamora, mother of Susanna Zamora, Sr Admin Assistant, Western Union Digital – San Francisco

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