“Always stand in the longest food line.” In 2010, after waiting fifteen minutes under a spring sun at the Des Moines Saturday Farmers Market, we were rewarded with a hot, cheesy, crispy, juicy, pupusa with curtido and spicy red sauce. Don’t think I’ve had a better one since.
Before Des Moines, I had never heard of a pupusa, but sitting on the curb eating a fresh one from the grill put that experience at the top of my best food moments. Finding a pupusa usually involves traveling to an Salvadoran restaurant, in an authentic urban environment, in a slightly edgy part of town that involves barred windows and strip malls—not that that’s a bad thing. I say to myself, “Be big. Don’t be a baby. Look at all those moms and little kids in there.” The search also includes dusting off my kitchen Spanish. I have forgotten most of it (just as well—it was not polite anyway) so I am at a disadvantage, but pointing works just fine.
Houston, of course, is the mother lode of all things pupusa. I’ve been to two places so far, both within 10-15 minutes drive from our apartment, with plans for more. Pupusa Buffet—all the pupusas you can eat for $6.99 and La Pupusa Loca—far the best, featuring pupusa revueltas with juicy, savory pork/bean/chicarones filling and a huge jar of curtido and bowls of spicy salsa roja on each table.
So far I’ve found pupusas everywhere we’ve traveled, except at home; so if you’re of the mood, dust off your Spanish and find a pupusaria in your town.
Salsa Roja (Red Salsa)
- 1 tablespoon salad oil
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoons dried oregano
- 3 medium tomatoes, cored and chopped (or 1 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes)
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
- ½ to ¾ cup water
Sauté onion, garlic, and jalapeño in oil until onions are soft. Add salt and dried oregano, sauté briefly.
Add tomatoes and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Blend tomatoes and cilantro in regular or wand blender until smooth. Add more water if the sauce needs to be thinned.