Thursday, June 25, 2020

My Attempt at Making Salvadoran Pupusas from Tasty

Burst of flavors and textures right here! I love how intense it looked and tasted!
I love tasting new things from around the world! Growing up, I didn't get much chances to try different kinds of food since I had parents that were traditional and always liked eating mostly Asian cuisine at home. I wanted to taste the world since I grew up surrounded by people of all nationalities. I wanted to try all kinds of cuisines as well as products from particular countries. When I lived in US for a year, I encountered so many kinds of cuisines since US is so diverse. Mexican food was so popular that it became a comfort food for me. I got access to other latino and south american dishes from my boss who was Peruvian. I loved the zesty, citrusy, intense and flavorful dishes they had! It was tangy and refreshing without being too greasy, oily or bitter like many dishes I have tried in Filipino, American, Chinese or other cuisines. 
Some people prefer it without the refried beans, so you can do without it. It's a flexible recipe!
When I moved from Nashville, Tennessee to San Francisco, California for a month before moving back to Manila, I wanted to maximize my time in California by trying out all kinds of dishes that I wouldn't normally get back at home. From French Soul Food to Mexican to Asian fusion to Brazilian and even Salvadoran food, I had the chance to taste the world at the palm of my hands! I had so many memorable moments that I could relate it to a certain dish or cuisine I have tried! I encountered this dish called Pupusas from a friend I met who had Salvadoran relatives. It's a flatbread made from masa harina or ground cornmeal with several fillings inside. It gave me great excitement when I saw it being opened, and the gooey, stretchy cheese just expanded from the inside! The flavors and textures it had gave me so much happiness, that it motivated me to make it myself because there aren't any places in Philippines that offers this type of cuisine. 
I kind of burned my fingers trying to open this up because I wanted to see the cheese stretch!
I always believed that if you want a certain type of dish, you should learn how to make it yourself. I always have attempted to try making certain dishes at home if I have certain cravings because it makes me try new things. I wanted to let my family see things that I tried abroad, and hopefully would enjoy themselves. Some of the things that were frustrating were lack of ingredients but thankfully, places like Amazon or even Healthy Options had certain ingredients that were difficult to find! My whole motivation with cooking since the beginning has always been because I wanted to make dishes that I actually enjoyed eating. 

Pupusas are normally difficult to make because of the components that are needed from the masa, to the sautéing and pureeing, mashing, and molding of the flatbread. Another alternative to this Salvadoran dish is Arepas, which are popular in Colombia and Venezuela. I am quite thankful though that I have friends from El Salvador that are based in Manila, Philippines because they have been able to come to my home to make genuine ones for us to taste. One thing that I must say is that when you're eating Pupusas, you should accompany it with Curtido or pickled vegetables that tastes somewhat similar to European sauerkraut. Think of it as a tangy, crispy and refreshing side dish to have with the Pupusas! It really does make a huge difference.
They may sound challenging to make at first, and it may take a while for you to master it without making any holes, but you learn a lot of cooking techniques with this. It's a fun process to have your family involved in it. Even if they don't look perfect, they still end up pretty delicious! It's a dish best eaten with your hands along with even tomato salsa if you wanted. I guarantee you may fall in love with the taste of this dish as much as I have! I hope that it opens you up to new cuisines!
It's not obvious though, but the hand blender broke while it was trying to puree the chicharron mixture.

Salvadoran Pupusas courtesy of Tasty (makes 18 pieces)
Ingredients: Curtido
  • 1/2 head of green cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1 small white onion, sliced into strips
  • 2 medium carrots, grated or shredded
  • 4 cups (960-1000 mL) boiling water
  • 1 cup (240-250 mL) distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 lb (455 g) boneless pork shoulder (kasim), cut into 1-inch (2cm) cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small white onion, diced
Pupusa Dough
  • 4 cups (450 g) masa harina (ground cornmeal)*
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups (720 ml) cold water 
  • 1 cup (100 g) grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup (240 g) refried beans, mashed and cooked
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil


    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. Chill for at least 20 minutes in the refrigerator, or chill overnight for best results.

    4. 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.
    Lesson learned: don't use a hand blender to blend the meat, but a food processor or blender instead!

    5. 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.

    6. 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.
    The masa cornflour may be difficult to find where you're at, but this can be bought online, too!

    7. 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.

    8. Take a golf ball-sized portion of dough and roll into a ball, then flatten into an even round.

    9. 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.
    The simple addition of water and salt makes this dough pliable and easy to mold!

    10. 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.
    Be patient when making this because you want that cheese pull when you open it up!

    11. Serve the pupusas with curtido.

    12. Enjoy!
    These babies are best enjoyed right after cooking in the pan! I love every bit of it!

    *When making chicharrón, this is not the crispy crackling one that many Pinoys are used to, but rather a pan fried til browned pork meat. I used a hand blender, and it blew a fuse because the meat was very tough for the blade to handle. I recommend using a food processor to process the chicharrón mix of the meat and veggies for better results. If not, a blender or just chopping them up until fine will still produce great results.

    *Masa harina is not cornstarch! It is a ground cornmeal flour made from dried corn kernel bits, similar to polenta. It is available in several places in Manila such as Healthy Options and Rustans Supermarket at times. However, it can also be purchased online via Amazon.

    To my Salvadoreña friends and others who love pupusas: Muchísimas gracias por dejarme probar esta deliciosa comida! Quiero explorar más de la comida diferente! (Thank you so much for letting me taste this delicious food! I want to explore more of the different food!)

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