Salvadoran cuisine is a style of cooking derived from the nation of El Salvador. The traditional cuisine consists of food from Native American cuisine, indigenous Lenca, Maya, Pipil and European Spanish peoples. Many of the dishes are made with maize (corn).
El Salvador's most notable dish is the pupusa, a thick handmade corn flour or rice flour tortilla stuffed with cheese, chicharrón (cooked pork meat ground to a paste consistency), refried beans or loroco (a vine flower bud native to Central America). There are also vegetarian options, often with ayote (a type of squash) or garlic. Some adventurous restaurants even offer pupusas stuffed with shrimp or spinach which are served with salsa roja, a simple yet flavorful Salvadoran cooked tomato sauce, often served with curtido. Pollo encebollado is another popular Salvadoran dish that contains chicken simmered with onions. Salvadoran cheeses, queso duro (hard cheese), queso fresco (fresh cheese), and cuajada, are eaten with meals.
Two other typical Salvadoran dishes are yuca frita and panes rellenos. Yuca frita is deep fried cassava root served with curtido (a pickled cabbage, onion and carrot topping) and chicharron with pepesca (fried baby sardines). The Yuca is sometimes served boiled instead of fried. Panes Rellenos ("Stuffed Bread") are warm submarine sandwiches. The turkey or chicken is marinated and then roasted with Pipil spices and hand-pulled. This sandwich is traditionally served with turkey or chicken, tomato, and watercress along with cucumber, onion, chili, lettuce, mayonnaise, and mustard.
Other well-known Salvadoran dishes include carne guisada (saucy beef with potatoes and carrots), lomo entomatado (beef with tomatoes), carne asada (grilled steak, usually served with a type of Salvadoran salsa called chimol), pasteles de carne (meat pies), pollo guisado con hongos (chicken with mushrooms), pacalla (palm flowers breaded in cornmeal, fried and served with tomato sauce), pavo salvadoreño (roast turkey with sauce, often eaten for Christmas), ceviche de camarones (lime-cooked shrimp), and pescado empanizado (breaded, fried fish fillets).
Types of tamales
- Tamales de elote (Fresh corncakes)
- Tamales pisques (Tamales stuffed with black beans)
- Tamales de pollo (Tamales stuffed with chicken and potatoes)
- Ticucos ("Travelers" tamales)
Soups and salads
Soups and salads are popular among Salvadorans of every social level. Sopa de pata is a soup made from the tripe of a cow, plantain, corn, tomatoes, cabbage and spices, locally a delicacy. Sopa de res is a soup made from beef shank, beef bone with meat, carrots, plantain, corn, potatoes, zucchini, and many other ingredients. Gallo en chicha is a soup made with rooster, corn, dulce de tapa, and sometimes other things.
Sopa de pescado is a soup made out of fish or seafood with corn flour, tomatoes, green peppers, cumin, achiote and other ingredients, very popularly eaten for the Christian holiday of Good Friday. Sopa de pollo is a chicken stew with tomatoes, green peppers, guisquil, carrots, potatoes, consommé, and other ingredients.
Sopa de gallina india is a chicken broth with vegetables. Some people add lorocos and cream. Sopa de frijoles (Bean soup) is a red bean soup which is one of the main dishes not lacking in the diet of Salvadorans .
Salpicón de res
Panes rellenos (stuffed bread) is a warm chicken or turkey submarine sandwich, similar to a hoagie. The chicken or turkey is marinated and then roasted with Pipil spices and hand-pulled. This sandwich is traditionally served with tomatoes and watercress.
Salvadoran desserts include pan dulce, semita, Salvadoran quesadilla (a type of cheese-based pastry, similar to the Honduran rosquillo and unrelated to the Mexican quesadilla), torta de yema, marquezote, salpores, poleada (vanilla custard), arroz con leche (rice pudding), atol de elote, atol de piña, empanadas de platano (plantain patties), and many others. The dulce de leche of El Salvador has a soft, crumbly texture, with an almost crystallized form. Fruits are widely consumed, the most popular being mangoes, coconuts, papayas, and bananas. Sometimes fruit with ice cream and cinnamon sprinkled on top is served.
A very popular soda that originated in El Salvador is Kolachampan, which is a soda with sugar cane flavor. Minutas, shaved ice flavored with fruit flavored syrup, and horchata, a beverage made from rice milk and a mix of spices such as cinnamon, peanut beverage, ajonjolí (sesame seeds) and morro, are popular throughout the country and enjoyed on a hot day.
Licuados are like the minutas with added fresh fruit and (sometimes) milk. Refrescos refer to lemonades or other sweetened fruit drinks. Other drinks include Arrayán, Chuco and Chilate. Another popular beverage is ensalada ("salad"), made of pineapple juice with finely chopped fruits, usually apples, marañón, mamey, and watercress.
Tamarindo juice is consumed in all of El Salvador. Coconuts are sold at roadside estansas throughout the country. Typically, they are chopped with machetes and a straw is inserted so that the coconut water can be consumed. Adults drink coconut milk, mixed with vodka, as an aperitif. Vinagre de piña is a drink of trimmed pineapples mixed with piloncillo and water and set aside to ferment for a few weeks or even months.
The most common alcoholic beverage in El Salvador is beer (cerveza). The most popular brand name is Pilsener (brand). Suprema is considered the premier local brew. Both of these and other popular beers are made by Industrias La Constancia. More recently, Cerveza Cadejo has become increasingly popular in El Salvador. Cadejo is a microbrewery based in San Salvador that was inspired by US microbreweries. The company releases several lines and has become increasingly popular among young adults in El Salvador.
The national liquor of El Salvador is Tick Tack, a sugar cane distillate. Tick Tack has similar flavors to Cachaca.
Salvadorans eat a large variety of seafood. Salvadoran cocktails and ceviches are made with clams, oysters, fish, shrimp, snails, octopus, squid, and a type of black clam called conchas by locals. Cocktails and ceviches are prepared with a type of tomato and chopped onion sauce or a dark sauce called Salsa Perring, which is a local way of pronouncing Lee & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, and both are sprinkled with lemon juice.
Salvadorans also eat fried crabs and lobsters or fried fish with garlic and lemon. Shrimps are also eaten roasted, al ajillo (aal-aheejo: means in garlic), or in butter. There is also a type of seafood soup called mariscada (maareescaadaa), which contains fish, clams, octopus, squid, shrimp, and crab.
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- Eating the Salvadoran way
- Bibliography of books on El Salvador cooking, from the Library of Congress (Spanish)