learning curve

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Embarked on another eating adventure last night. No, folks, I'm not referring to the Baconator Double here -- had more than enough stunt food after yesterday's ridiculousness. I'm talking about Salvadoran cuisine and Pupuseria Salvadoreña in Santa Rosa.

The pupuseria (and its specialty, the pupusa -- a thick corn tortilla that can be filled with everything from beans and cheese to fried pork to squash to a tropical flower called loroco) was a first for me -- and for Todd and the four friends we met for dinner. No one in our group had ever had Salvadoran food before. We chose the restaurant because we had heard it was good, and that was all we knew about it.

Because of our complete lack of familiarity with Salvadoran food, our ordering was a bit haphazard but a lot of fun -- we'd point at things on the menu and wait to see what would arrive on the table. Prices at the restaurant were so unbelievably low, that we were all able to order quite a few dishes and try a number of different things. All six of us ate for around $55 total!

I started off with a bean and cheese pupusa, which was absolutely incredible and only cost $2. The server also brought out two big jugs (the kind that are usually used for maple syrup at places like IHOP) full of green salsa and red salsa, so I ate my pupusa with that. (And apparently, while reading more about Salvadoran food today, I discovered we were also supposed to top the pupusas with pickled slaw-like veggies. I know the server brought this out in a bowl, but we were all so confused about what we were eating that one of our friends thought this was her salad and ended up eating it by herself. Not a big deal -- this just means I'll have to go back and try again!) Todd got the cheese, squash and spinach pupusa, which was also good, but surprisingly not as flavorful as the beans in mine. He also got the pork, bean and cheese pupusa, and that one was just knock-your-socks-off fantastic.

The second round of food involved a plate of nuegados de yuca, or fried cassava patties served in a sauce that the menu described as "honey and hot sour." (See the photo above.) Accompanying this was a thin, white, soapy-looking drink served in what looked like a coconut husk (but which I later discovered was a gourd). This caused all kinds of confusion. We had no idea what it was at first, and our friend Josh actually dipped one of his nuegados in it. We had to ask our server several times to explain it to us, and all she said was "It's a drink, it's a drink." So we drank it, but I'm still not sure how it was supposed to complement the nuegados (which were pretty starchy and kind of bland and not really my favorite). The drink -- I think it was chilate -- didn't taste like much -- I picked up a hint of ginger, but that was it. I'm still baffled by the pairing, so if anyone out there knows anything more about it, I'm all ears.

My third dish was a sweet corn tamale with a (heaping!) side of crema, or sour cream. This was tasty -- the ratio of cornmeal compared to sweet corn was a little high, but it was still good. There's just something about sweet corn that reminds me of summer.

I finished off the meal with what I swear was described as a custard-filled empanada with beans on the menu, but which turned out to be a fried plantain stuffed with beans. Despite my initial surprise, this was a great way to end the dinner -- sort of a savory-sweet combo, and like I said before, Pupuseria Salvadoreña's beans are killer.

Definitely a great adventure and awesome food find. And saying the word "pupusa" is fun.

1 comment:

Christina said...

I love pupusas with a deep, abiding love. I eat them as much as possible, and if I had known you had not eaten them before I could have taken you to some yummy places here in SF. Well, I could STILL take you to them and we can eat lots and lots of pupusas. With the slaw and salsa!!


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