El Salvador is such a small country, and it has been so heavily influenced by American fast food, that it was hard to believe that it has maintained such a diversity of food. We ate quite well there as we simultaneously had to eat the local food and all the food we missed from the US.
As we were getting on the bus as soon as we got into Ecuador, I grabbed one of these tostada things. I ask my typical question (Does it have cheese?) and the woman said no, so I bought it. It was a tostada (really a fried tortilla) with yucca, cabbage, tomato, and some cream. They really like cream in El Salvador and serve it with several dishes.
Our first night there we got in late and didn't know how safe our neighborhood was (it turned out to be quite safe), so we went to the closest place we could find, which was Wendy's. I love Wendy's, but at least in part for the dollar menu, which didn't seem to exist. After walking through the drive-thru to see if that menu was different than inside, the man behind the counter came and got us and admitted that they have some off-menu items. This is common in South and Central America--they rarely tell you on the menu everything that they have. In any case, we got some bacon burgers (hold the cheese), fries and Frosties, making for a very tasty and not completely Salvadorian dinner.
The most popular food in El Salvador is called the pupusa, which is a thick tortilla with fillings inside. Traditionally, they have beans, cheese, pork, or any combination of the three. You can get them everywhere and they range in price from about 20 cents to a dollar depending on size and quality. Here are some 20 cent ones being baked on a traditional griddle on the street.
A traditional plate of pupusas might look like this, accompanied by a sweet plantain (which we love and bought several of by themselves) and a pickled cabbage salad that is not too bad.
We discovered that El Salvador loves ice cream and has tons of local chains. Several of these chains are 2x1, meaning that everything is two-for-one. Even better, one of the chains called Sarita was having a free scoop deal with the purchase of any waffle cone. So, everyday for three days we went and had waffle cones with two scoops for 85 cents each. The last day we were there, I had two.
Also popular in El Salvador are donuts. Donuts and ice cream. Two of my favorite things. The most popular place is Mister Donut, which has really good donuts. They serve a lot of other food (ala Tim Horton's) which looks bad, but actually seemed more popular than the donuts. Also of note is that the cinnamon rolls and apple fritters were much cheaper than the donuts, despite being better. We took advantage of this by eating some every morning.
Here are two of the donuts. A dulce de leche glazed cream filled on the left and an apple fritter on the right. I love apple fritters and this one lived up to everything that an apple fritter should be.
The local brand of yogurt is called YES. Tara found the novel flavor of grape. I assured her that she would hate it because she hates artificial grape flavoring. Against my advice, she bought it and took it to the movie theater with us. This is clearly taken before she tried it because then her smile changed to disgust.
In the market of San Salvador, she located some horchata, which she had been seeking for some time. Horchata, for those who don't know, is a sweet rice milk drink with cinnamon that is quite good.
In the same market, I opted for the brightest colored drink that I could find. Had it been dark out, it would have glowed. It turned out to be chicle, which is much like bubble gum. Not my favorite, but it was drinkable. And pink.
We met the cousin of an El Salvadorian friend from New York, who took us to a place called Abbi's Pupuseria. It was amazing. Best food in a long time. Here are some of the pupusas with more food in the background and more was brought later. Thanks to Ronald for taking us!
Ice cream vendors on the street are common, but this one had fun bowl shaped cones, so I got a sundae with strawberry and coconut ice cream and strawberry syrup. It won't win any taste awards, but pretty good for 50 cents on a sunny day. We need more people in the US who walk around with coolers of ice cream for sale.
They don't have a ton of empanadas in El Salvador, but in Suchitoto we found these cute vegetable filled empanadas that are then fried. They were very good. Tara also has a fried potato in that bag, which was not bad, but was literally just a whole potato that had been fried.
This is a "plato tipico", consisting of avocado, some local salty cheese that Tara says is like ricotta, and casamiento. Casamiento is a mix of beans, rice, and spices. It doesn't sound that exciting, but it is amazing if done well. Really, really good. I don't know why it doesn't exist in other countries.
The fruit and milk shake is a staple in Central and South America. This one was banana and they were nice enough to add cinnamon. Strangely, El Salvador has a different word than anywhere else for a banana.
These are some local sausages, served with casamiento and the cheese. The sausages tasted like normal sausage, but are made in this fun round shape. They could string them like Christmas ornaments.
Here is Tara with a flavor of YES yogurt that she really liked: aloe vera. I have to assume that it tasted like mosturizer, and that it made her esophagus smooth and supple.
That's it for El Salvador and its foods. A good mix of traditional and American. We really enjoyed eating the food and probably gained a few pounds. Thanks, El Salvador!