As you may have guessed, I am an adventurous eater. It should come as no surprise when I tell you that I was thrilled to learn that my grandsons (age 2 and 1) are equally daring when it comes to food. Zay and Levi love to eat and one of their most recent culinary discoveries were pupusas.
This flatbread-like delight originated in El Salvador but is served in many Central American countries, including Belize. Pupusas are similar to corn tortillas, only thicker and heartier and the kinds we enjoy most are stuffed with vegetables, cheese, beans or meat.
There are two pupusarias two miles by golf cart from our Belizean home in the town of San Pedro. I prefer the more “local” place that is often filled with Belizean families. The last time I wandered into this restaurant, hand in hand with my grandsons, the women who run the place grinned with delight. We perched Zay and Levi on our knees so they could watch these ladies knead the dough and gently place the disks filled with cheese onto the hot griddle. Once we were seated, we ordered a feast featuring strawberry Fanta, pupusas of every variety, and a fried yellow snapper fish dinner that came with refried beans, salad and fresh tortillas. We could hardly finish it all and the bill came to just 15 dollars US!
Here is a simple recipe for pupusas that can easily be replicated in YOUR Global Kitchens!
- 2 cups masa harina (a corn meal that is sold in the ethnic food aisle of many grocery stores; lettering may read “Maseca”)
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 cup filling (see variations below)
In a large bowl, mix together the masa harina and water and knead well. Knead in more water, one tablespoonful at a time if needed, to make a moist, yet firm dough. It should not crack at the edges when you press down on it. Cover and set aside to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
Roll the dough into a log and cut it into 8 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball.
Press an indentation in each ball with your thumb. Put about a heaping tablespoon of the desired filling into each indentation and fold the dough over to completely enclose it. Press the ball out with your palms to form a disc, taking care that that the filling doesn’t spill out. Each disc should measure approximately 5 inches wide and about 1/4-inch thick.
Heat a cast iron or non-stick skillet or griddle over medium-high flame (you may want to lightly oil). Cook each pupusa for about 1 to 2 minutes on each side, until lightly browned and blistered. Remove to a plate and hold warm until all pupusas are done.
The fillings you can use are virtually limitless. My favorite is a combination of roasted and mashed butternut squash or yams topped with cooked spinach. Here are a number of other options:
- Cheese: queso fresco, Swiss cheese or a combination. Add some minced green chile if desired
- Fill with refried beans that aren’t too liquid
- Mixed beans, cheese and roasted chilies
- Any kind of ground meat like leftover pork or chicken or chopped soft fish like snapper – ensuring it’s not too liquid
These are traditionally served with a ladle of fresh tomato sauce and some vinegar-based coleslaw (stay tuned for recipe). I also have habanero sauce on hand to add a little zip!
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Marie Sharps is my favorite brand of hot sauce. They have endless flavors and heat levels and are the perfect accompaniment for any kind of Latin American food.
As noted, masa harina is sold in many stores around the country. If you have a hard time hunting it down – Amazon also sells this brand.
You can use any non-stick pan for the pupusas. My favorite is my Swiss Diamond fry pan. I honestly don’t know how I would survive without it!