El Salvador has a rich history of powerful and vibrant civilizations dating before the Mayans. But much of the cultural heritage and indigenous customs have been lost due to political and other social pressures lying hidden within the elders of El Salvador like treasures waiting to be discovered.
People have to eat, however, and the recipes of the ancients thrive in kitchens throughout El Salvador. This is not to say that Salvadorans have no culture! Quite the contrary, the country has produced some amazing poets, painters and other artists who are quite famous far beyond the borders of this tiny little country on the Pacific coast.
Come discover the modern expressions of El Salvador, as well as some delicious traditions that have been handed down for generations.
Points of Interest
Salvador cuisine is a unique part of Latin American cooking. The dishes are rarely spiced with hot chilies. Instead, Salvadoran dishes use mild spices and a variety of colorful ingredients to create vibrant, flavorful dishes.
The ash and lava from over twenty volcanoes have made the soil in El Salvador's central plains extremely fertile. Three major crops, coffee, cacao, and sugarcane, are the base of the country's agricultural economy. But Salvadorans grow a much wider variety of crops, mostly to feed themselves.
You've heard of a Mexican quesadillas. But have you heard of a "Salvadoran Quesadilla"? It's a rich, sweet cheese bread with a cake-like consistency flavored with Parmesan-type cheese, queso seco, and sesame seeds. It is served warm by itself or with vanilla ice cream, and a favorite with a hot cup of coffee.
Plantains are extremely versatile in Salvadoran cooking. While they are usually served fried as a side dish, they can also be turned into luscious desserts, such as Plantain Flan. Plantain leaves are often used to prepare tamales, rather than the cornhusks that are used on other Latin American countries.
Corn, yuca, plantains, red beans, and rice are staples in the Salvadoran diet, eaten everywhere from the coast to the mountains. Meat, poultry, and seafood are rare treats in rural areas, but more available in cities along with a wider selection of fruits and vegetables.
As is common in Latin American countries, El Salvador has a terrific climate for growing fruit. Consequently, Salvadorans juice a wide variety of fruits, such as mangoes, papayas, oranges, bananas, watermelon. They often drink these juices over ice; as licuados, juice blended with sugar, ice and sometimes milk; or as refrescos, juice mixed with sugar and water.
Pupusas are the signature dish of El Salvador. These small, thick corn tortillas are filled with cheese, fried pork rind, sausage, refried beans, or pumpkin blossoms and fried. They are traditionally served with Curtido a pickled cabbage relish, and are sold at restaurants (pupuserias) and markets. November 13 is National Pupusa Day in El Salvador, an official holiday.