TASTE: Lulu's Hot Tamales

TASTE: Lulu's Hot Tamales

 Photos by Tanja Bruckner


Monica Luppi (aka 'Lulu') is bringing her hot tamales to the brewery. Sounds like a euphemism, right? It’s not. Her ‘California style tamales’ are legit - delicious steamed parcels of corn masa dough filled with meat or vegetables topped with fresh pico de gallo or charred corn salsa. 

She’s fresh from a pop-up stint at Midnight Special then she’s then going to leg it down the road and bring the good stuff to the brewery. And because she's a good sort who cooks food with a conscience she's sharing a portion of the profits with a chosen charity. This time round she's swinging some much-needed funds the way of Topos Mexico - a citizen rescue brigade that saved many lives in the recent earthquake. 

Before she gets here we thought we’d have a chat to the Cali ex-pat with the very Italian name…

Your culinary background is pretty impressive - Italy by way of the SF bay area! How has that influenced your cooking?
Well, one of the most amazing things about San Francisco is the cultural diversity and that translates into great food. It's also got such great produce, like seafood and veggies. Just a great variety. And being born in Italy, well food is kind of in my blood. I was really lucky growing up with food as a big part of my life from early on, and getting to try all sorts of different cuisines. 

Lulu's food is a blend of all the flavours I grew up loving in the US, plus stuff my partner and I eat when we are on the road there - we just recently did a full loop around the country in 65 days and you'd be amazed at the variety of culinary cultures you come across, so much more than burgers and BBQ...not that I don't love those as well! 

What brought you to Sydney?
The Italian economy wasn't so hot, and I had met my partner who is also Italian and we just kinda decided to take a chance and move here. My mum was an Aussie so growing up I'd spent some time in Sydney. It reminds me of San Francisco in many ways, especially all the different cultures and being on such a beautiful bay...  It's the best place in the world and we really can't believe how lucky we are to have made a home here.

Each of your events you contribute a portion of profits to charity. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Yeah sure! Well I worked in social enterprise and non profit pretty much my whole adult life. When I left my last job about a year ago  to work as a cook, I knew I had to stay connected to causes that matter to me. The very first Lulu's popup was a benefit to help a friend who had some serious health issues, bills, and was missing a lot of work, so it started that way, and was successful it just seemed like a good idea to make it a permanent part of the business. 

You’ve been working with Oz Harvest. How has that influenced your ethos?
Oz Harvest is amazing and I learn more from them than I can say. Going out on  the vans when they pick up from supermarkets you realise how much food would just be thrown away, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with it, it's shocking! Something like 1 in 5 grocery bags in Australia is thrown out, and yet so many people go hungry. So yeah it has changed the way I cook at home too. I didn't think I wasted much, but I started incorporating more little things each day to reduce my waste after starting work there for sure, like making sure all my veggie scraps go into a big freezer bag, and then get added to my stock.

If you were on death row what would your last meal (and drink!) be?
ooooooh how long do I have to finish the meal?  Well for sure I'd start with some of Lulu's tamales and a Young Henrys Newtowner, right?

Then a table full of cheese, salumi, roasted bone marrow, foie gras and lots of crusty bread. To drink with that, a bottle of Sangiovese from my home Emilia Romagna 

I'd end with a big tin of caviar with all the accompaniments and a couple pints of lager. 

They'll have to roll me to the electric chair!

What are you bringing to YH when you cook here on November 4th?
Definitely the 12 hour chipotle pork and  the vego tamales with Oaxaca cheese and roasted sweet potato... both topped with fresh salsas and served with Mexican pickles. Plus fried plantains and as a special a muffuletta sandwich, which is a New Orleans based Italian sandwich loaded with salami, a couple different hams, provolone and olive salad which is like every kind of olive chopped up with pimentos and pickled onions and stuff. And just FYI our charity of choice for this popup is Mexican earthquake relief! 

Tamales being made

Tamales being made

Lulu’s pops up at Young Henrys Brewery, Saturday 4th November from 12-6:30pm.
Follow Lulu's on Instagram.