Tigards Tamale House prepares for thousands of orders for special treats during Christmas and New Years Day

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Magdalena Jump inspects a pot of tamales cooking at The Tamale House. The restaurant is known as one of the few places to get the traditional holiday dish in Washington County.Steam billows from a large pot at The Tamale House on Pacific Highway.

Magdalena Jump smiles as she examines the contents of the pot, more than 100 packed tamales standing vertically.

They’ve been cooking for about an hour, and they aren’t ready yet.

“We’ll make as many as we can today,” her husband Tony Jump says from behind the counter.

By the end of the day, she’s made a few hundred tamales, but next month the Jumps will need to make 10 times that many as they get ready for the holiday season.

The Jumps have operated the small family-owned Mexican restaurant on Pacific Highway since 2010, but the restaurant first made a name for itself as a traveling food cart selling tamales at farmers markets for years before opening their brick-and-mortar shop.

The Tamale House is at 13185 S.W. Pacific Highway, in Tigard. For more on the restaurant visit

While most American’s are only starting to think about the holiday season, Tony and Magdalena Jump have been preparing since mid-October.

“We got a bit behind this year,” Tony Jump said. “We usually start about mid-September.”

Labor intensive food

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Josefina Rosas spoons pork into a tamale at The Tamale House in Tigard. The two-year-old restaurant is gearing up for the holiday season where they expect to make about 10,000 tamales.The Tamale House is one of the few places in Washington County specializing in the traditional Central American food.

The lime green restaurant has become a staple for people all across the region hoping to get traditional Durango-style tamales for their holiday meals.

“Christmas is tamale time,” said Tony, “and New Year’s, too.”

It’s not uncommon for the Jumps to make 5,000 tamales during the holiday season, and this year Tony has plans to double that.

“If we sold 10,000 tamales this year I’d be happy,” he said, smiling. “The last couple of years we only made enough for the orders we got, but this year I want to do enough to make everybody happy. If someone calls Christmas Eve and says she wants seven dozen, we can do it.”

Sitting next to him, Magdalena laughs.

“He’s the idea man,” she said. “I do all the work.”

The orders usually start coming in about three months before Christmas, Magdalena said, and come from all over the region, lining the walls of the restaurant floor to ceiling.

Most people want a dozen or two to take home to their family, but Magdalena has taken orders from people who want 1,000 tamales for corporate events.

“There was one lady who called eight stores looking for tamales,” Tony said. “She needed 200 tamales by the next day. I told her she should have called us first, that’s what we do.”

Making tamales is a long, laborious process, but Magdalena has it down to a science.

Her pot, so large it’s difficult to put your arms around, cooks 120 tamales at a time.

Stacks of cornhusks piled two feet high in the back of the restaurant as her mother, Josefina Rosas, spreads masa — a corn-based dough — and meat onto the husks before folding them and placing them in the steamer for more than an hour.

They use Josefina’s family recipe that she brought with her from Mexico.

When asked how long she has been using the recipe, she laughs.

“Many, many years,” she says in Spanish as she spreads a thick helping of pork onto a cornhusk.

Tamales aren’t a common site in Portland’s Mexican restaurants, because they are so labor intensive, Magdalena said.

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Tony and Magdalena opened Tamale House in 2010.“But we wanted to do something different,” said Tony. “Everybody makes tacos. Not everybody makes tamales because it’s so much work.”

During the holidays, Magdalena will make a few thousand tamales a day, and the restaurant will be closed for days, except for pick-ups of tamales.

“Christmas is the most craziest time imaginable,” Tony said. “We do not stop. We don’t even open in the mornings and the place is already packed. We have to move the tables out of the way.”

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