There is a pupusa restaurant in my little country town of Atenas, Costa Rica. I’ve eaten there a few times, but now plan to be a regular.
Pupusas are the main national dish in El Salvador, the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America. You can find pupusas anywhere in the world where there is a Salvadoran community, and there are many due to the mass exodus during their 12-year civil war from 1980 to 1992.
Every second Sunday of November – this year, Nov. 9 – El Salvador and all international Salvadoran communities celebrate the National Day of Pupusas. Made of a thick handmade corn tortilla that is filled with a variety of ingredients – soft cheese, refried beans, pork, vegetables, etc. – pupusas are eaten typically with a slightly fermented cabbage and carrot salad marinated in vinegar, called a curtido.
At the very popular La Fiesta de las Pupusas Restaurant in my town of Atenas, Costa Rica, founded 32 years ago by Salvadoran immigrant Julia Flamenco, pupusas are made with 100% homemade cornmeal dough called masa. Expert pupusa cooks work a large griddle in the kitchen. They first take a ball of masa, flattening it slightly with their hands, then adding little piles of filling ingredients on top – soft salty white cheese, refried beans, ground-up chicharrones (fried pork), stewed pumpkin and carrots, or cooked white flower buds from the Loroco vine (Fernaldia pandurata), which taste similar to asparagus. They close the dough ball around the ingredients and pinch off any excess cornmeal; then pat it back and forth rapidly between their hands to flatten it into a thick pancake –filling still in the middle – and put it on the hot griddle to cook with no oil. The result is delicious!
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Article by Shannon Farley