Central America’s El Salvador is flanked by the Pacific Ocean to the south, Guatemala to the northwest, and Honduras to the north and east. These influences, as well as that of Mexico farther north, results in a colorful and flavorful cuisine. Corn is a staple crop and naturally, is found in many dishes, as are other Central American staples; rice, beans, and tomatoes. You'll also find plenty of seafood, tropical fruits, and refreshing fruit-based drinks.
El Salvador’s national dish is the pupusa; a thick corn tortilla stuffed with meat, cheese or beans. Pupusas are usually served with a cabbage salad known as curtido and a tomato salsa. One taste and you will become addicted. Other popular dishes in El Salvador are tamales which, unlike Mexican tamales, are wrapped in banana leaves, giving them a distinctive flavor. The two most popular fillings for the tamales are sweet corn or savory chicken. El Salvador’s version of the empanada is called a pastele. The fried pie is usually stuffed with meat or a combination of meat and vegetables. Yucca is a typical starchy side dish and is usually served fried, sometimes topped with chicharones (fried pig skin). Sopa de pata is a popular soup made from tripe, cow’s feet, yuca, corn, plantains, beans tomatoes, and cabbage cooked with lemon juice and cilantro. Refried beans, served as a secondary side dish, differ from the Mexican version by being pureed into a smooth paste.
Broward County is home to about 10,000 El Salvador natives, many of whom live in the communities just north and west of Fort Lauderdale; Pompano, Oakland Park, North Lauderdale and Margate. It should come as no surprise then that many area restaurants feature Salvadoran cuisine. Most of these restaurants are small storefronts in strip malls, they may not be fancy, but you owe it to yourself to check one of them out.
331 NE 44th St., Oakland Park
La Casita Salvadorena
1319 E. Commercial, Fort Lauderdale
3495 N. Dixie, Fort Lauderdale
1199 E. Commercial, Oakland Park
735 S. State Rd. 7, Plantation
Recipe: Pupusas For Everyone
Not only are pupusas delicious, they are easy to make and inexpensive. They are usually the size of a hamburger patty, but if you are preparing them as appetizers make them about the size of a slider:
Shrimp and Cheese Pupusas
3 lbs. mozzarella cheese (shredded)
½ green bell pepper (diced)
½ cup chili powder
1 cup chopped raw shrimp
4 cups masa corn flour
½ cup minced green onion
2 cups warm water
Place the shredded mozzarella, chili powder, and bell pepper in a food processor and process until the bell peppers are chopped into tiny pieces and fully incorporated into the cheese.
Toss in the shrimp, distribute thoroughly.
Place the cheese mixture into a bowl and warm the mix in the microwave for no more than 20 seconds.
Squeeze the cheese mixture with your hands, until it becomes like a soft putty-like consistency.
Set the cheese aside and prepare the masa.
Place the masa flour, minced onions and water in a bowl and stir until fully mixed. The masa should be very sticky but should form an easy ball when rolled. If not, add water or flour, as needed until it is easy to work with.
Lightly oil your hands.
Take a lump of masa about the size of an egg in your hand and press the masa out until it forms a disc the size of your palm.
Place about a tablespoon of the cheese mixture onto the masa.
Pull the sides of the masa up around the beans and cheese and roll it into a ball.
Flatten it into a patty about ½ inch thick.
Pat the disc turning it between your hands about 6 times to flatten it more but to keep it in a round shape.
(To make appetizer-sized portions, use about half the amount of masa and filling and make the disc slightly smaller than your palm).
Place the pupusa on a large, oiled, non-stick surface and cook on medium high until each side is golden brown, around 3 minutes on each side.
Serve with a hot sauce (buffalo wing sauce makes a good substitute for the traditional Salvadoran sauce).