Saturday, September 22, 2012

Stalking the Albino Pupusa

I never had a rice pupusa before. Behold the Salvadoran rice corncake:

More than anything, this explained why corn is usually the grain of choice. It tastes like an evolutionary step that failed, but hasn't yet been winnowed from the gastronomic gene pool.

 What's a pupusa, you ask?

There are no hard and fast rules about Hispanic cuisine, and anyone professing one ought not be trusted. But there's one rule of thumb that's very handy, though riddled with exceptions: Tortillas get thicker as you go south.

In Southern Arizona burros come wrapped in (wheat) tortillas so thin you can read through them. Across the border In northern Mexico, tortillas are more like the ones we're used to - thinnish, and offered in wheat or in corn.

As you head south toward Puebla, they thicken just a bit as you begin to see less wheat and more corn (and things stay corn for the rest of this journey). Toward Mexico's center, gorditas become popular. These are thick-ish tortillas, occasionally stuffed.

Way down south in the Yucatan, you find panuchos, which are thicker still, and stuffed with things like marinated shark.

As you pass into Central America, the trend continues. In El Salvador (and Honduras), the rage is pupusas, which are classically stuffed with either meat, cheese, or meat-and-cheese. Then you reach Venezuela, home of the arepa, which is nearly as fat as it gets. Venezuelans cut them and stuff them, like panuchos and pupusas, but the Colombians, still further south, make them a tad thicker, and pile stuff on top.


sku said...

Rice pupusas are harder to make well than corn pupusas, but I've had some great ones. The rice flour has less flavor than masa, but it adds a hard exterior and chewy texture that I really like, and the more neutral flavor enhances the filling ingredients. That being said, many in El Salvador consider them a bastardization...a misguided fusion of European ingredients (rice) in an indigenous food.

Jim Leff said...

Ah, this one was sort of soft and clammy. Sounds like they didn't grill it enough.


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