One of the last places we ate in "normal times" was a local pupuseria - a place that sells pupusas (and more). A pupusa is a corn griddle cake filled with a variety of ingredients. Since COVID-19 shut down the ability to go out to eat, we've been using our local delivery apps to try some of the random local restaurants. My husband loves all Latin American foods and would happily eat inside that cuisine every day, so we've tried everything from Dominican to Colombian to Salvadoran. (I seem to prefer Colombian the most, with the arepas and empandas.)
Both El Salvador and Honduras claim the pupusa, which is his absolute favorite, so much so that we declared Sunday to be Pupusa Sunday. Most of the time, we get them from a place that makes Salvadoran and Honduran food. I like the chicharron & frijol, Nathaniel usually gets hongos (mushroom) and espinaca (spinach.)
I hate long food blog intros but I promise this is all relevant. Two months ago, I noticed one of my Instagram friends posting food she'd made that was part of the "Rainy Day Bites Cookbook Club." I looked into it and it was started by Deborah Balint. She picks a cookbook each month and specific recipes and posting dates for the dishes. I loved this idea and invited myself along (it seems to work that way anyway) and meant to do the June cookbook but time got away from me. For July, though, I couldn't pass up a chance to make pupusas after everything I've explained previously.
The cookbook for July is We Are La Cocina. La Cocina is an "incubator kitchen" in San Francisco, a nonprofit working to provide commercial kitchen space for women, immigrants, and people of color. The cookbook is beautiful and contains profiles of women who have started business there, found a passion, etc. Most have at least one recipe; several have multiple, and the variety of backgrounds is reflective of that community. This is a cookbook to keep on my shelf for when I'm curious about a specific cuisine (there are a few recipes from the elusive filipino cuisine that I read about but haven't tasted, for instance.)
The pupusa recipe comes from Maria Del Carmen, who owns a business called Estrellita's Snacks. She walked to California from El Salvador and ended up starting this successful business. I would love to try her pupusas someday, but for now I was happy to try her recipe. There are pictures in the cookbook showing the process but I found even more detailed steps on her Instagram account.
I won't include the recipe here because really, you should buy the cookbook of course, but so much of a pupusa recipe is about feel. I feel I may have not hydrated the corn flour enough, and totally meant to use beans in these but discovered we didn't have any after everything else was already ready. I clearly need to try the recipe again. I did make Maria's recipe for curtido, that's what looks a bit like coleslaw but is more of a quick pickled cabbage with a little bit of a kick from a pepper you can't see. Instead of the traditional (somewhat thin) salsa we always get from the restaurant, we prefer our pupusas with Cholula chipotle hot sauce (not a paid advertisement, we just like it.)
Before I tried the recipe for the first time, I also watched a bunch of YouTube videos since I usually learn a lot from real home cooks. One video is Curly and his Abuelita making pupusas together, another is all in Spanish but uses an unknown (to me) ingredient called loroco (which seems pretty popular on the internet for pupusas) and she makes them very differently from most Salvadorans I've watched, and then one that was really fun where three Salvadoran Moms try each other's pupusas and vote for the best. They have opinions!