El Salvador is bejeweled with numerous attractions and some quite quirky descriptions. While the beautiful mountains, Pacific beaches, and rich history mesmerize the tourist, facts like the moniker ‘The land of volcanoes’, that it is the smallest (smaller than the US state of Massachusetts) and yet the most densely populated country of South America, interests the general knowledge seekers. There is, though, another point of interest in El Salvador: its cuisine. The diverse cuisine of El Salvador draws influence from the culinary practices of Native America, the indigenous Pipil and Lenca populations, and Spain. Such diversity in influence renders Salvadoran food not only varied but also delicious. Here are five of the most popular traditional food in El Salvador that is a must try for everyone.
1. Pupusa (Salvadoran tortilla dish)
This is El Salvador’s not only the most iconic dish but also the most historic. The preparation of pupusa dates centuries back with the Pipil tribes first preparing it and on 1 April 2005. The dish was officially termed the national food of El Salvador with every second Sunday of November celebrated as National Pupusas Day. Pupusa involves a thick, handmade tortilla made with corn flour and stuffed with cheese, cooked ground pork and fried lorocco (vine flower bud found in Central America). There are vegetarian alternatives to the filling mostly made with local squash and garlic and the pupusa can also be eaten plain. Pupusa is usually served with spicy cabbage slaw (known as curtido) and tomato salsa. The tortilla has a slightly sweet flavor which is balanced by the savory fillings and the creamy texture of the cheese. The wide possibility of customization in fillings, affordability, and flavor make pupusa a treat to your taste buds.
2. Sopa De Pata (soup)
Sopa De Pata is a wholesome soup made with a variety of ingredients. Like any other hearty soup, Sopa De Pata consists of a starch, spices, and meat, but what gives this soup an extra edge is that it is made with cow hooves. The other ingredients are tripe, cassava, sweet corns, squash, plantains and green beans. The preparation includes washing the hooves with lemon juice to remove stench then slow boiling it to make a rich broth. The lack of meat in the hooves is aptly made up for by the juicy marrow in the bones that, when simmered in liquid, produce the flavourful and signature broth of Sopa De Pata. The soup is seasoned with coriander leaves, lemon, chili powder, and cumin. The spices and the lemon provide the zest to this rich and savory soup which makes it the perfect companion on a chilly day.
3. Tamales (steamed cakes)
Tamales is an authentic Salvadoran food that has the novel characteristic of both a savory item and a dessert. It is essentially small pockets made of corn dough that are wrapped inside a banana leaf or a corn husk and steamed. Later, the banana leaf or corn husk is discarded or used as a plate. The tamale is filled with ingredients which are dependent on whether you want it to be a savory item or a dessert. In case of a savory item, the ingredients are usually cheese and meat while in case of a dessert the ingredients can be sweet corn and dried fruits. The dough pocket and fillings are seasoned according to taste and preference. Depending on the filling, a tamale can taste quite savory and creamy or sweet.
4. Yuca Frita (fried cassava)
A typical snack of El Salvador, Yuca Frita is the French fries of the country with Cassava replacing the potato in the world’s most beloved snack. The Cassava is cut into wedges and then deep fried. This dish is unsurprisingly served with tomato salsa and sometimes slaw. It is quite chewy and firm in terms of texture and has a slightly sweet, grainy taste.
5. Ensalada (fruit drink)
Ensalada is El Salvador’s authentic drink. It is made with an assortment of fruits like pineapple, oranges, and mangoes. The fruits are chopped into small pieces and mixed with a light, sweet and tangy mocktail made from pineapple juice, lemon juice, and water. This is the most appropriate drink to cool your insides after consuming a dish seasoned with hot, packed-with-flavor native spices. The drink is refreshing and would be a perfect addition to a relaxing day at the beach.
6. Panes Rellenos (sub sandwich)
Panes Rellenos is a typical El Salvadoran sandwich. It is basically a submarine filled with either turkey or chicken. The meat is cooked in Pipil spices that give the dish an authentic and indigenous flavor. Like most submarines, this sandwich comes accompanied with tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce which serves to balance the heat of those amazing spices. Panes Rellenos is a finger food and very popular in El Salvador. The dish is light yet fulfilling complemented by tender meat.
7. Quesadilla Salvadorena (dessert cake)
Who doesn’t like cake and who wouldn’t like it if it is served for breakfast. The Quesadilla Salvadorena is El Salvador’s traditional coffee cake that has the texture and flavor of a regular pound cake. It is made with Queso Fresco cheese, milk, butter, eggs and flour-the ingredients that make a delicious cake. You can eat is cake as a side with your morning cup of coffee or as a dessert after any meal. Traditionally consumed at breakfast, this delicious, cheesy cake has the flavor and aroma to give a wonderful start to your day.
8. Sopa De Pescado (fish soup)
The Sopa De Pescado is a soup that is made with fish and other seafood. The soup is made flavourful by adding tomatoes, achiote, green pepper, cumin, and corn flour. The seafood is cooked in a delicious broth of these ingredients and the result is a soup that treats your taste buds. This soup is usually savored during the occasion of Good Friday but can be eaten any day you please for lunch and dinner. The soup tastes spicy and is fulfilling.
9. Empanadas De Leche (plaintain pastry)
Empanadas De Leche is a traditional breakfast item in El Salvador. It is basically plaintain which has been ground and given an oval shape and then deep fried. The filling is of vanilla custard. These empanadas taste heavenly what with the sweet flavor and smooth texture. Though traditionally served in breakfast, these can be consumed at any time of the day.
10. Tres Leche Cake (sponge/butter cake)
This is El Salvador’s traditional and prized dessert. Tres Leche Cake is a complex dessert that is made with three types of milk and served cold. The three types of milk used are condensed milk, whole milk and evaporated milk. The cake tastes heavenly with the dense texture complementing the layered sponge with whipped cream on top.
Indulge in culinary decadence
Food is therapy for all of us and hence we have a dish for every occasion, situation, and environment. The next time you visit El Salvador or choosing the menu for a party or you are simply going through the daily ordeal of deciding what to make or eat for lunch, give Salvadoran cuisine a try.
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