Tuesday, August 9, 2016

San Franciso Exotic Food Crawl Post: El Salvadorian Pupusas At La Santaneca De La Mission On Mission Street

Pupusas from La Santaneca, located in Bernal Heights on 3781 Mission St.

"Where are you off to?" I asked a friend one evening. "I'm off to get some pupusas for dinner," he replied. "Pupusas? What is that?" He gives me an incredulous look. "You don't know what pupusas are?" And so he turns to his computer and Googles pupusas for me. Apparently they are an El Salvadoran dish consisting of homemade corn tortilla with fillings in them, often a blend of pork, cheese and beans. Pupusas have different names based on what fillings they have. The ones I mentioned, which has cheese, beans and pork are called pupusa revuelta. He then proceeds to teach me how you are supposed to eat them. He grabs a piece of scratch paper and then proceeds to fold it into some origami shape to try to show me visually the correct way to eat a pupusa. To this day I don't know if this is how El Salvadorans eat their pupusas since my friend is not El Salvadoran himself, but here goes:

Use your knife to draw a cross on the first layer of your pupusa. Peel back the layer to reveal the pupusa filling (your choice of bean, cheese and/or pork) and then you proceed to dump your red sauce and coleslaw that comes with your pupusas onto the filling layer of the pupusa. Afterwards, you cover the pupusa back with its first layer, and then you can start eating your pupusa with a fork and knife.

My best friend and I got a chance to try pupusas a couple of days after the Subway fiasco. After our Pirates of the Caribbean, I mean The Lone Ranger screening, we headed to La Santaneca instead of La Santance de la Mission, which was the place my friend recommended, because the latter was already closed by the time we got out of the screening.

The place was nondescript, rather bare-bones with minimal decor. But the waiter was really friendly, which made up for the restaurant's spare decor. The wait for 4 pupusas was rather long, seeing that it was pretty late and there was hardly anyone in the restaurant but us.

The pupusas came piping hot and I proceeded to show my best friend the supposedly correct way to eat your pupusas. The pupusas turned out to be really delicious and quite filling. Two pupusas per person filled us right up pretty nicely. The total bill came to $10 including tax and tip, which made the meal really affordable.

As so, our San Francisco Exotic Food Crawl began with the unassuming-looking but absolutely scrumptuous El Salvadoran pupusas.

About two years after our very first pupusas, we finally had an opportunity to try pupusas at the place my friend recommended, La Santaneca de la Mission, located on 2815 Mission St. Maybe it was because one's first time having pupusas is an indelible experience, but I found that I prefer the pupusas at La Santaneca to the ones at La Santaneca de la Mission (I know, it can be confusing with both of them having similar names and being located on Mission St.), even if the decor of the former was more warm and inviting. My best friend got a different filling this time. She decided to get loroco filling for her pupusa. For the uninitiated, loroco is a edible flower found in Central America. It is an important source of food in both El Salvador and Guatamela, and can be commonly found in dishes like pupusas. The loroco added an interesting flavor profile to the pupusas with a taste reminiscent of asparagus.


What I especially love about this food crawl of ours is that I believe food is the window to a country's soul and culture, and in researching what to try next, I find out a lot about a country's culture that I wouldn't have known about in the first place. Case in point, I wouldn't have known that an edible flower called loroco existed or its economic importance to countries like El Salvador.

Next up, shawarma.