Salvadoreno v. Guanaquito: Clash of the Pupusas
Southwesterners often pride themselves on their knowledge of Latin American food, mostly focusing on the all-encompassing "Mexican" description. Well, it is time to broaden our horizons, people! Move on down toward El Salvador and discover possibly the most delectable and perfect combination of the Latin flavors we know and love: the Pupusa (poo-POO-sah). What appears at first as a thick, homemade corn tortilla, the Pupusa reveals itself as a masa treat stuffed with beans, cheese, meat, and/or flowers (yes!). Ever been frustrated by the difficulty of eating a taco? How about the discomfort of an overstuffed quesadilla? Well, a pupusa may be your answer. (Though please refer to business associate tacosmog.com for an expert comparison of the three options.)
- Eating the World: Salvadoreno's
A typical Salvadorian treat, this meal traditionally is accompanied by a pickled cabbage mixture called curtido and salsa roja, a thin and flavorful tomato sauce. It's cooked on a griddle and sold on the streets of El Salvador for a quick bite. With just a few options for this Salvadorian treat here in Phoenix, it only makes sense to pit them against each other. Have at it, you perfect little treats, you.
In This Corner: Salvadoreno Restaurant
The Setup: This family-owned restaurant serves food from all over Latin America, including Panama, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and, of course, El Salvador. With four Valley locations and one in California, these Salvadorian transplants, Miriam and Nina Martha, have effectively spread their family recipes to a large American audience.
The Good: The masa-to-stuffing ratio was really what shined for Salvadoreno -- the cheesy inside was gooey, hot, and well dispersed throughout the circular pupusa. It often is a struggle to evenly distribute the ingredients within a pupusa, but Salvadoreno masters the bean and cheese relationship. These pupusas were sturdy enough to eat by hand, with a crispy and slightly charred exterior that gives a good crunch, quickly followed by oozing cheese and beans. Though the loroco pupusa, which is filled with cheese and a native flower to El Salvador, could have used some more flowers to counter the powerfully salty queso.
The Bad: The curtido at Salvadoreno left much to be desired, as the pickled cabbage that accompanies these otherwise fabulous pupusas is lacking in both spice and flavor. Usually a refreshing, bitter, and spicy addition to a pupusa, the uninteresting curtido could easily be forgotten while at Salvadoreno.