Thursday, January 9, 2014

In the Kitchen: Salvadorian Pupusas by Grandma

Mama Alicia. Happy as a clam.

My grandma Mama Alicia just turned 90 years old on Monday, which is truly a blessing. She's lucid, healthy and still handing down valuable life lessons, traditional values and recipes from the motherland. We spent a week together over Christmas and I got her to teach me (again) how to make El Salvador's national dish pupusas. It's a stuffed corn tortilla that's much thicker than a Mexican tortilla. It can be filled with anything, but traditionally it's cheese, beans, shredded pork or a combination. Here is my Mama's recipe which makes approximately 20.

Prepare your stuffing in advance and feel free to be creative. You could stuff it with pretty much anything from spiced eggplants to fancy lobster. The only thing is it to make sure your filling is finely minced or mashed and pre-cooked. The stuffing can't be chunky otherwise it will break through the tortilla. 

The base is a simple mix of water and maseca, a flour made from dried ground corn. Grandma doesn't use measurements, naturally, but I will try to translate the visuals as best I can. Gradually add water to about 2 1/2 cups of flour and hand mix until you get a workable dough. Like this, not too dry or too wet.

Start heating up your frying pan or griddle pan on a high heat. The pan should be dry, so no oil or grease necessary. Take a bit dough about 1/3 cup and start rolling it into a ball. Then flatten it out and start forming it into a little cup.

Put about 1-2 tablespoons of stuffing into your cup then fold over the edges. Smooth out the edges so you have a nice rounded stuffed ball.

Giving it a go under Mama's watchful eye
Then gently flatten it out by tossing/passing it from hand-to-hand. Once you got a nice little pancake, transfer the pupusa to a paper towel. Continue to flatten it out with your fingers, concentrating on the edges. Make sure the edges are thin about 1/2 inch and this will prevent the fillin' from spillin'.

Once it looks like this you are ready to cook. Basically you want it to be thin, but still holding in the filling. And be should see your filling beneath a thin layer of dough as oppose to smushed into your dough. 

Place it on the pan and cook each side for about 5 minutes or until little dark spots start forming and the dough looks cooked. Polk-a-dot spots are pupusas' signature look, so don't get scared.

The wonderful thing about pupusas is they are so versatile. The dough is gluten-free and low-fat and they can easily be made vegetarian or vegan. Keep it healthy by choosing a lean stuffing and pair it with a side salad like curtido, a spicy pickled cabbage salad, as is the tradition in El Salvador.

Do serve them on a festive plate for added pleasure

Oozy goodness

I feel so lucky to be able to add this recipe to my repertoire, to have learned it directly from my Granny and continue to hand it down to our future kids. Feliz Cumpleanos Mama Alicia.
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