Since meeting my boyfriend Eric in early 2016, I have traveled to El Salvador 3 times. During our first trip in 2016, we had only been together for a couple of months and I was already traveling out of the country with him and meeting his family. I had never been outside of the United States and I wasn’t sure what I would experience in El Salvador. I knew the country was known for gang violence, but I was still open minded about the experience.
I bet you’d be surprised to hear that the first meal I ever ate in El Salvador was from Burger King. In 2016, I traveled to El Salvador for the first time, not sure what to expect. Many people from home were telling me that traveling there wasn’t a great idea, that it was a dangerous place. I was worried about what I would experience. However, after my first trip, I realized that it wasn’t as bad as people were telling me. I didn’t see any gangs or violence, I didn’t see anything negative at all like people were telling me I would. Ever since our first trip, we have returned yearly.
Before traveling to El Salvador I honestly didn’t expect to see chain restaurants. I was very wrong about that. There are several food chains here in El Salvador such as Burger King, Starbucks, Subway, Pollo Campero, McDonalds, and more. I was told that if you are able to eat at Burger King, you are considered “well off” here. Whereas, in the United States, it’s the opposite. Burger King is an affordable place to get food if you are short on money. Most of the chain restaurants are in the bigger cities. The smaller areas of the country are full of little restaurants out of people’s homes where they mostly make pupusas. Pupusas are the dish of El Salvador. They have become one of my favorite foods.
The first homemade meal I ate back in 2016 in El Salvador was beans, tortillas, and cheese. At the time I didn’t like beans, so I barely ate any of it. However, my taste buds have changed since then, and during this most recent trip to El Salvador, I ate a ton of beans, cheese, and tortillas! I didn’t realize what a staple this meal was in this country until this most recent visit. We ate this meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Another homemade meal that I enjoyed each year was soup. Sopa de gallina, or sopa de pollo indio. Basically, it’s a vegetable soup with chicken. The vegetables are picked right from the land and the chicken is taken from the coop and killed right there before making the soup! It literally can’t get any more fresh than that. Some of the vegetables in the soup include chayote, squash blossoms, and other variations of squash.
Egg scrambled with vegetables was another thing we ate quite a bit of on this most recent trip. It was just eggs, tomato, onion, and a little bit of green pepper.
To be honest, we ate out a lot each year that we visited and these three meals were really the only ones we would eat at home.
In the city of Metapan, there are so many little pupusa restaurants, tortilla restaurants, and other various food stands. On every corner you can find somebody making pupusas and tortillas, or selling vegetables, ice cream and snacks. El Salvador is known for the pupusas. They are basically tortillas made out of corn flour and water, filled with cheese, beans, pork, or whatever other filling they have available. If you want to see how I make pupusas at home, you can check out THIS POST! The first time I had a pupusa was on our first visit in 2016. I had no idea how to eat it. It typically comes with a slaw made from cabbage, carrots, and other various vegetables, alongside a red liquid tomato salsa. I initially thought you piled the slaw and salsa on to the pupusa and ate it like a taco, but I was wrong. You actually tear off some of the pupusa and pick up the slaw and salsa as though you are using the pupusa as a pair of tongs, then you eat them all together. Similar to beans and tortillas, pupusas are eaten for every meal of the day. There is a local pupuseria (pupusa restaurant) in Metapan called More Comedor, and they make the best pupusas I’ve ever tried. They have 15 different flavors or so. They even have a garlic pupusa. My favorite from their restaurant is the chicken pupusa. However, the most common types of pupusas are queso con loroco (cheese with a local green vegetable), cheese and beans, or revueltas which is usually a mix of cheese and pork or cheese, beans, and pork. If you want to try some pupusas in Maine i recommend “Tu Casa” or “Flores” restaurants in Portland.
Some other common meals you can eat here while dining locally are tamales and pan de pollo. Tamales are so delicious in El Salvador. I had tried Mexican tamales before, but honestly nothing compares to the tamales in El Salvador. They are so moist and flavorful. Typically filled with vegetables and chicken, you can top them with lime & salsa. Tu Casa and Flores restaurants in Portland, Maine also have delicious chicken tamales! Pan de pollo translates to bread of chicken, however, it’s really just an elaborate chicken sub. The chicken is super tender and the sandwich is filled with various vegetables such as radish, carrots, slaw, and more. You top it off with some salsa, and prepare yourself for one messy meal! Check out these photos from the pan de pollo we had on our most recent visit!
The town of Metapan, along with other cities in El Salvador, also have chain restaurants that I had never seen or heard of until visiting. Two of the more notable chains are Pan Lilian and Ban Ban. They are both bakeries/cafes. They sell pastries, cakes, coffee, and more. They are a little more expensive than the other local restaurants. A couple of drinks and snacks there cost me $15, whereas, two generous lunch plates and drinks from a local restaurant cost only $5.50! The prices are definitely less expensive overall in El Salvador. They also use the same currency as the United States which makes things a little easier!
FRUITS, VEGGIES, & SNACKS
On weekdays, the streets of Metapan are filled with vendors selling their fruits, vegetables, snacks, and miscellaneous items. The fruit and vegetable stands are beautiful and feature a wide variety of local produce. There are so many fruits and vegetables that I never knew existed until visiting El Salvador. I have tried many of them but not all are so delicious in my opinion. My boyfriend however, eats just about all of the fruits you can imagine. Our daughter is the same way. Some of the more notable fruits are the anona, lechees, nances, and papayas. Some of the vegetables are loroco, chayote, and something called more (pronounced mor-ay). My favorite snacks however, are the pastries and sweets sold by the street vendors! There is one lady who we buy pastries from every year. She makes the most delicious pastries, filled with a somewhat bland, but delicious pastry cream, topped with granulated sugar. However, the pastry cream is thicker than what you’d imagine. The other snack that I tried for the first time on our most recent visit was pastelitos de platano. It’s basically a mini empanada filled with a similar pastry cream. However, the empanada part is made with mashed plantain! I believe they then fry it on a flat top. It is absolutely delicious and I can’t believe I just discovered them! Soon enough I will try my hand at making some of my own!
Traveling to El Salvador over the past few years has been a great experience for me personally. It was amazing to experience another culture so different from our own. I am thankful that I was able to try new foods that I would have never tried had I never been to this country. Although El Salvador has a bad reputation, I think that people should really open their eyes and minds and realize that sometimes a bad reputation is nothing but people focusing on the negative, when there are also so many positive things to consider. I would recommend traveling to El Salvador if you’ve never been. However, I think it’s a good idea to go with somebody, or stay with somebody, who knows the country. That way, you can go to the best spots and really experience the country in a more positive way. If you don’t want to travel to El Salvador to experience their delicious food, I’m sure you can find a local Salvadoran restaurant by searching for “pupusas near me” or “Salvadoran restaurant near me” on Google! I really hope you enjoyed this post! This is just a very small portion of everything El Salvador has to offer, but if you want to try one thing from the Salvadoran cuisine, let it be pupusas!
Here are a few more photos from our trips: