By Mikkie Mills
El Salvadorian cuisine is often overshadowed by its more famous neighbors Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Panama. But this tropical destination with its coastline, warm and friendly people, and the surprisingly unique food is growing in stature as both a travel and food destination. El Salvador, the smallest country in Central America, has a lot of local cuisines to offer its visitors. Whether exploring El Salvador’s coastline in a pair of sunnies or hiking trails through the lush rainforests of the Bosque El Imposible National Park, travelers will find exotic fruits, fresh seafood, and eclectic regional tastes that everyone will enjoy.
To get a real sense of El Salvador’s culture, cuisine and heritage, visitors need to sample some of the most authentic dishes during their visit to this small country. The Spanish and Native American influence is unmistakable with Salvadorian food.
Here are four unique foods to try when in El Salvador.
Tamal de Pollo
Salvadoran banana leaf tamales differ from their corn-husk Mexican cousins, but they still top the list foods to try. These tamales are cooked and wrapped in such a way as to give them a moist and juicy consistency and a slightly fresher taste. Salvadoran recipes call for tamale filling of potatoes, olives and a tomato sauce that imparts a lot of flavor to the chicken. These delicious treats often have a little crispness to the edges and a consistent texture inside and out.
Pupusas are the purported staple of Salvadoran cuisine, but this food is anything but ordinary. They are thick, round, hand-made corn tortillas often made with savory fillings like chicharron (finely ground pork), beans, rice, cheeses, a local edible flower called “loroco.”
Revueltas is the most popular type of Pupusa. They are stuffed with all of the above but made with the more traditional corn tortilla. There is also the pupusa de arroz which are made from rice flour instead of corn. The latter has a unique flavor but is equally delicious.
Sopa de Res
The English translation is “soup is life.” And if the name isn’t indication enough as to how serious Salvadorans are about their soup, then one taste is all that’s needed to confirm it. Many of the South American Countries have different versions of this soup, but El Salvador’s is among the best.
The soup is made with large chunks of beef simmered and stewed with ears of corn, cabbage, carrot, zucchini, and a Central American squash called “güisquil.” Rice is added to the soup as both a thickening agent and to make it more satisfying. Sopa de Res is a must during any trip to El Salvador.
Plátanos con crema y Frijoles
A typical breakfast dish in El Salvador, platanos con crema y frijoles consists of the larger sweet and starchy cousin to the banana: the plantain. Plantains are common to Salvadoran cuisine, and here they are fried then topped with a finely ground bean that has a sauce-like consistency. They are accompanied by a South American version of sour cream.
Adding eggs to your plátanos con crema y Frijoles along with a thick, fluffy tortilla, is what is known as “plato típico”, which translates to a typical dish. It is anything but typical.
Salvadorian food is both varied and delicious. Visitors to El Salvador should try most, if not all, of the foods mentioned above. The flavors will both inform and entice. The rich influences of El Salvador’s Spanish heritage are on display in many of the dishes, as is the native culture and indigenous, abundant seafood and tropical fruits. As more and more Americans are introduced to Salvadoran foods by immigrants to their country, there’s no doubt the region’s food will become more popular.
Author: Mikkie Mills
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