One of the things I love most about the people I´ve met from Central America is the way they talk about food. People here just seem so passionate about it and it´s so common to over hear many a conversation about favourite types of food, or maybe what they ate last night, or the best way to make something. Kids walking home from school, families in a restaurant, hipsters in a bar – everyone is talking about it. So I decided I wanted to try and join them and write a little bit about my current favourite food… Pupusas.
A pupusa is a traditional food in El Salvador, and anyone who has read my blog or twitter feed while I´ve been staying in El Salvador will know that I´m crazy them. If I can, I eat them every day. I don´t know why I´m so obsessed with them, I´ve been taking photos of them for this blog and it´s hard to make them look anything more than disgusting. But they are not – they are fabulous.
My personal description of what a pupusa is, goes as follows: it´s a round crispy tortilla-type-thing stuffed with delicious things like beans and cheese, or pork and cheese, or shrimp and cheese, or jalapeño and cheese (cheese comes up a lot and is worth having for it´s added oozyness) and it´s served with what looks like a coleslaw and a salsa that is shared on the table.
But a slightly more detailed version derived from a bit of research (Thanks wikipedia) is like this:
Pupusas are a thick, handmade tortillas stuffed with various fillings, such as a ´revuelta´ (A mix of things – typically chicharron, cheese and beans). The tortillas are made from either rice flour (Arroz) or corn flour (Maiz). Pupusas are typically served with a lightly fermented cabbage slaw with red chilies and vinegar (Curtido) and a watery tomato salsa.
A pupusa being salsa and slawed in Suchitoto…
In the name of research for this blog, I started something I called ´The Pupusa Challenge.´ This was a mission, with the selfless aim to try a pupusa in every Pupuseria in Santa Tecla, El Salvador and write a definitive review of the best places to buy pupusas here for anyone visiting. This is a ridiculous and impossible challenge for many reasons. To start, there are loads of Pupuserias here and I would be the size of a house. Also, once I found a good pupusa, I just wanted it again and again. So I have ended up with two favourite pupuserias to recommend for anyone visiting:
Exact address is hard to find here (not sure they exist), but it is on a corner by the fruit market opposite the square. You have to go upstairs, but you can see this sign from the street so should be able to find it. This place is awesome because you can choose a usual pupusa made from Maiz or Arroz – but also one with Papas or Platano! These are just brilliant. My favourite is probably papas* with jalapeño con queso. Oh it is so so good.
*Wikipedia suggests this actually isn´t officially a pupusa, but meh.
or this one:
This is just off Paseo el Carmen, on the road that has the bar called ´Jaggers´ on the corner. I love this place as the pupusas are slightly bigger, which means I get to eat more! I always eat one jalapeño con queso with arroz and one with frijoles con queso. They also do yummy natural juices here, like orange and carrot – so you can feel a bit healthy while you eat your calorie-stuffed pupusa.
The making of a pupusa loca…
Other pupusa related stuff you might like to know:
1. The Pupusa Hour is 4.00pm. This phenomenon does exist here in Santa Tecla. 3.30pm is regularly a hungry half an hour walking around looking for one if I´m not in the right place, but 4pm the gates to deliciousness open. That said, they are regularly available for breakfast – hooray! (No one can tell me why 4pm is so good for pupusas. Why not 5pm? But it really is true. Pupusas are great at 4pm. Yay El Salvador).
2. It is possible to get a bad pupusa (surprising to me, but tragically true). Too greasy or fillings just not good (terrible when it´s chicken in my experience). Therefore, either try to find one of the places I mention, or ask a local because it´s important to me that if you read this, you should eat a good pupusa.
3. Local tip: When finding a pupuseria check the cleanliness of the salsa and salad bottles on the tables – this gives an indication of quality.
4. Pupusa Loca´s are brilliant. They are essentially massive pupusas which contain every ingredient from the menu. The experience is a food challenge in itself. It´s got to be done.
5. Pupusas are so cheap – you can eat a meal with for $2 with a drink – brilliant on a budget (not for the size of my stomach).
6. It´s difficult to find a good pupusa outside of El Salvador. This justifies eating a lot of them while I am in El Salvador – I can always lose the weight later.
7. There are no pupusas in London and this is a terrible thing. They are a perfect fast food for busy London people. I have researched this all evening and found nothing except a very cruel place called London that has a pupuseria. which had me excited for about half an hour before I realised it was in Canada.
8. Archeologists have found evidence that Pupusas have been around for centurys and were first made by the Pipil tribes!
9. The word ´Pupusa´ means large, stuffed and bulky tortilla and is derived from the Pipil or Nahuatl words ´popotl´ and tlaxkalli.
10. There are lots of recipes on the internet for making pupusas. Hooray.
I haven´t tried making them yet, but this one is my favourite because the photos just make pupusas look delicious (which I have failed to do with my own photography!) :
… Maybe my next pupusa challenge will be to try and make every pupusa recipe on the internet and report back on which is the best… (tummy stirs with excitment at this prospect…)
Birthday pupusas in Suchitoto