LA is a tamale paradise, filled with perhaps as many versions of the wrapped, masa-laden treats as there are cheeses in France. There are the Central American, banana leaf wrapped tamales filled with a moist masa, meat and green olives; the mole saturated Oaxacan versions; the Salvadoran sweet, fresh corn tamales that get thrown into the deep frier to crisp them up; the various arrays of sweet dessert tamales that come out for Christmas, and then there are the traditional Mexican tamales, filled with masa, salsa and meat.
There are numerous LA vendors of great tamales in the mid-city area. Mama's Hot Tamales on the South end of MacArthur Park gets points for variety, offering versions from countless nations. Panaderia Salvadoreña, with branches on Beverly and 6th, makes the best of the fresh corn variety (tamaels de elote), but for the traditional Mexican variety, Tamales Alberto has them, and to quote the Robert Johnson song referenced in the title "they're red hot."
Tamales Alberto is a stand on Temple west of Glendale Boulevard, which serves big bags of tamales to go. The queso tamales are studded with a spicy red chile sauce, the chicken include a tangy chile verde, the mole in the excellent mole tamales are in the Puebla style (less thick but just as tasty as Oaxacan). They also have pork, bean and cheese and a number of sweet varieties. All are excellent and easy to take-out for a party or quick dinner. And at $13 per dozen, you can't beat the value.
1644 W Temple St
Los Angeles, CA 90026