My trips with Global to El Salvador have been some of the most educational and significant trips I have ever had. The history, the culture, the loving and generous people I met made me appreciate the beautiful country where my husband was born and raised. One part of these trips that I love is the food! Now having married into a large Salvadoran family, I am no stranger to pupusas and curtido. Pupusas are a cornmeal dough stuffed with cheese, beans, or other ingredients.
My sisters-in-law can make a mean pupusa revuelta with the best of them. An interesting thing about living outside your country of origin and wanting to continue making some of your traditional menus is that on the one hand you have to work with what you have. Some ingredients are not available or are too expensive. So you go without it or you replace it with something else and you adapt to the new flavor of your pupusa.
In other ways, the rush of life in your new home country and the availability of certain conveniences changes the way pupusas are made. No longer does someone have to shape them by hand, filling them in as you go (the first time I watched a woman do that in a youtube video it looked so easy I gave it a try. Only to have the contents of the pupusa break through as I was trying to shape it into place). Now we have tortilla presses that can do that for us. Making each pupusa the exact same size every time.
Here's the thing. Making pupusas in El Salvador is an art. I watched as these women shaped each pupusa effortlessly. Pupusas are the meal that brings family and friends together at the table. You put some curtido in them and you have quite a delicious masterpiece.
Here is a recipe I found for pupusas from tasty.com which should take about 2 hours for a cook with intermediate level experience. It's a lengthy process but it's not hard. I would give you my recipe, but being from Mexican descent married to a Salvadoran my pupusas are kind of a mix between Salvadoran pupusas and Mexican gorditas. I've also included a recipe for curtido (they go together). But for the real deal, may I suggest a trip to El Salvador with Global!
Ingredients for 18 pupusas
½ head green cabbage, cored and shredded
1 small white onion, sliced
2 medium carrots, grated
4 cups boiling water
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 lb boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch (2-cm) cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium tomato, diced
½ green bell pepper, diced
1 small white onion, diced
4 cups masa harina
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups cold water
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 cup refried bean, cooked
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, for frying
Make the curtido:
In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, onion, and carrots.
Pour the boiling water over the vegetables and toss.
Let sit for 10 minutes, then drain.
In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, combine the vinegar, oregano, and salt.
Pour over the slaw and toss to coat.
Once thoroughly mixed, transfer the curtido any any leftover liquid in the bowl to an airtight jar or container.
Chill for at least 20 minutes in the refrigerator, or chill overnight for best results.
Make the chicharrón:
Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
Add the pork shoulder and salt. Cook for 15 minutes without disturbing.
If the pork is browning too quickly, reduce the heat to medium.
Turn the pork over and let cook on the other side for 10 minutes more, or until crispy and golden brown.
Transfer the pork to a food processor and add the tomato, green bell pepper, and onion.
Pulse until a thick paste forms.
The mixture should not be watery. Set aside.
Make the pupusa dough:
In a large bowl, whisk together the masa harina and salt, then add the water.
Use your hands to mix until the dough comes together with a clay-like texture.
Fill a small bowl with water and a bit of oil and set near your work station. You’ll wet your fingers with the mixture as you work to keep the dough from sticking to your hands.
Take a golf ball-sized portion of dough and roll into a ball, then flatten into an even round.
Fill the dough round with ½ tablespoon chicharrón paste, 1 teaspoon refried beans, and 1 teaspoon mozzarella cheese.
Fold the dough over the filling until it’s completely sealed.
Then, pat out the ball between your hands until flat. If the pupusa cracks, patch it with a bit of dough and a little oil.
Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
Heat a large pan or griddle over medium heat.
Brush with vegetable oil, then place 2-3 pupusas on the pan and cook for 2-4 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown.
Flip and cook on the other side for 2-4 minutes more, until golden brown and warmed through. Repeat with the remaining pupusas.
Serve the pupusas with curtido.
By Silvia Escobar – Elder at Willow Creek Community Church