Sugar Skulls, Tamales And More: Why Is That Food On The Day Of The Dead Altar?

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In Mexico, celebrations for el Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, are already in full swing. The holiday, observed on Nov. 1 and 2, honors deceased ancestors. And food and drink are a big part of the festivities — they are ofrendas, or offerings, put on altars to entice deceased loved ones to come back for a visit.

Among the most popular food offerings are tamales — delicious little packages of masa, or dough made from corn flour, wrapped in aromatic leaves, usually corn husks or banana leaves, and steam cooked. There are hundreds and hundreds of types of tamales, which can come with sweet or savory fillings such as beef, pork, chicken or cheese.

To help us celebrate, we asked Mexican chef Pati Jinich to show us how to cook her favorite kind: chicken tamales in green salsa. The full recipe is here. Watch our NPR Live video above to see Jinich's full cooking technique. And read our story below to learn more about the food and drink of the Day of the Dead.

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