Food Finds: Sarita's Pupuseria
The first time I visited Las Vegas, I realized it had just as much variety and great food as NY or LA. It was also the first time I had a pupusa and found out about El Salvadoran food. A pupusa is a flat-looking dough usually made from masa and filled with deliciousness. It's basically a really thick corn tortilla. The closest thing I can compare it to is an arepa in appearance and theory, but it's similar in El Salvadoran food as pastelitos are to my Puerto Rican heritage, or maybe tamales to Mexican culture.
Since I've lived in LA for six short months, I've been waiting to find pupusas. I've recently came across Sarita's after researching the best places in Grand Central Market to try.
When you arrive at Grand Central Market in DTLA, you must go with very clear intentions because there are so many delicious distractions. However, as you draw closer to Sarita's, the smell will overwhelm you and there will be no turning back.
As I reviewed the menu, I just wanted to hit the basics: classic pupusas with chicken, beef, and beans. Most pupusas have beans or cheese and may have another flavor or protein to compliment it. I definitely needed a bean pupusa because the smell of the beans at the stand were incredible.
As I stood in line, I watched who I assumed to be seasoned vets at Sarita's, thoroughly toss the slaw that traditionally accompanies pupusas. I gazed in awe at the women manning the flat top where they filled the masa with the cheeses and meats and slammed them onto the grill. I was curious how they knew what pupusa they put down as soon as they did, the whole grill was filled. But my questioning was unecessary, this clearly wasn't the first time for any of these chefs.
I waited impatiently; watching the crowd of people served before me come and go and the line of people behind me drool with hunger, until finally the pupusas were in my hands. I grabbed some extra hot sauce and found a place to sit and dig in.
If you want the real pupusa experience, you have to eat it with the slaw and the sauce. The hot sauce isn't "hot" per say, so don't let too much be your concern here.
Let's start with the chicken pupusa. Because pupusa are made from masa, it's no surprise that this is reminiscent of a tamale or an enchilada. The chicken texture is the same--shredded--but this was definitely my least favorite.
The bean pupusa was delicious, and I highly recommend it if you don't need or want meat in your pupusa. They're pretty much a refried bean, but it tastes glorious.
By far the greatest was the beef pupusa. I tasted it while I was trying to figure out which was mine and which belonged to Bee. When I put it in my mouth, it melted. Such perfect flavor, very similar to many beef empanadas and taco recipes I've done. It made me wish I ordered the beef.
The dough was perfectly crisp from the flattop on all pupusas, sealing in all the wonderful flavor.
My overall rating: 7.5
This rating was tough for a couple of reasons. I only tried three pupusas from the menu that offered so many options. I imagine the pork one is glorious, but I wasn't a huge fan of the chicken. Without a doubt, if this was the first time I tried pupuas, my rating would be at least one point higher. Still, the pupusas are classic, can stand on their own and do not skimp on taste.
I highly recommend if you've never had pupusas, you want to try new Latin cuisine and you're in LA. Head down to GCM for Sarita's pupusas for a flavorful discovery.