As Hispanic Heritage Month ¹, we celebrate College Park’s diversity and the integral role latine communities contribute to American society. Learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month here.
A pupusa is a thick, stuffed, griddle-cake, pressed and filled by hand. The flavor-filled corn tortilla is traditionally cooked on a stovetop called a comal. The word pupusa derives from the word “pupusawa” which means to puff up (or inflate). The national dish of El Salvador² is invariably paired with curtido, a blend of lightly pickled cabbage and carrots, and a natural tomato sauce called escabeche. It comes in a number of flavors, the most common being:
- La pupusa de queso (cheese)
- La pupusa de chicharrón (pork rind)
- La pupusa de ayote (squash)
- La pupusa de frijoles (bean)
- La pupusa de chipilín (chipilín)
- La pupusa de jalapeño (jalapeño)
- La pupusa de camarón (shrimp)
- La pupusa de pollo (chicken)
One may guess the inception of the dish is somehow connected with El Salvador’s complicated colonial history. In fact, pupusas are of ancient, pre-Columbian origin. Anthropological studies connect the stuffed corn tortillas to the Pipil peoples, a tribe indigenous to modern-day El Salvador, approximately 1500 years prior to the arrival of the Spanish. While today pupusas are eaten throughout Latin America, they are considered Salvadorian.
This dish is meant to be eaten by hand. Those trying pupusas for the first time may be tempted to prepare a pupusa as if it were a taco. It may seem almost instinctual to add the condiments to the center of the tortilla, fold, and then eat. This method is a bit difficult to manage – the curtido and salsa will spill almost instantly. Salvadorians have a foolproof technique to acquire the perfect pupusa-to-condiment ratio. Place the curtido on a plate and coat with a spoonful (or two) of the tomato salsa that accompanies your meal. Rip a bite-sized piece of a pupusa and pinch a bit of the cabbage-salsa mixture with two fingers. The slightly coarse tortilla, rich flavor of stuffing, cut by vinegar taste and texture of cabbage and tangy sauce delivers a formidable, well-balanced flavor.
Pupuseria la Familiar, located at 8145 K Baltimore Ave., has dozens of options besides pupusas to choose from. Sopa de mariscos, Yuca³ fritos, and horchata³, are all amazing options to add on to your order. If you usually follow lunch with a coffee, swap the horchata for a cafecito.
Their hours are 10:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, Friday 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. You can order for take out at (301)-474-8484. For a full menu in English and Spanish, visit their website.
¹ Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15, 2022 and ends on October 15, 2022
²A country located in Central America that gained independence from Spain in 1821.
³ Yucca is a fried cassava root, with a texture similar to a potato; Horchata, a sweet, rice-milk drink, commonly spiced with cinnamon.