Pupusas

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Today we ventured to the outskirts of town (which is not far in this little beach town, about a block) in search of the Pupusa: One of El Salvador’s staple meals. A hand formed cake of corn flour and water, mixed with your choice of fillings and cooked on an outdoor griddle. It was hands down the most enjoyable meal we’ve had since setting foot in El Salvador. And for 50 cents a piece, it’s hard to go wrong.

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In all honesty, we didn’t know what Pupusas were until about two hours ago. We’d seen countless roadside stands filled with the frying circles of goodness, but had yet to identify them. I suppose one of the dangers of long term travel is that your knowledge of the next country declines considerably after many months on the road. You begin to consider the ‘now’ more than the future, and lead by your gut (and the direction the next bus takes you). Considering that we didn’t know we were coming to El Salvador until the day before we left Nicaragua, I shouldn’t be too disappointed in my lack of knowledge. In this case, our instincts are proving to us that our months of of travel have prepared us to find the good food without consulting our usual references.

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It is with this awareness that Dave and I sat on the side of the street in two plastic garden chairs, watching our chef masterfully prepare the dough. The makeshift outdoor kitchen is standard here, as we’ve found it to be most everywhere in Central America. With the kids, a horse, and a few dogs playing in the yard behind her, she lighted the grill and recited a long list of the various fillings we had to choose from: cheese, chicken, fish, shrimp, and a few other items I didn’t pick up in translation.

Based on our limited experience, the Pupusa is strikingly similar to the Arepa- a snack we enjoyed in Panama. Yet Salvadorians will explain to you that the details make a big difference. By observation, the fillings in a Pupusa are kneaded into the dough by hand before being cooked. The finished product is served with a cabbage relish and tomato sauce. The result is a filling blend of soft dough, spicy meat and cheese, and crisp shell. Notably less dense than the Arepas we’ve had, and dare we say, more flavorful.

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