Even though we’re not in El Salvador yet, that doesn’t mean Kail and I can’t experience Salvadoran culture — particularly Salvadoran food. Specifically, the pupusa.Seeing as how there’s a national holiday in El Salvador dedicated to the pupusa, its national food, I thought it best to familiarize myself with this all-important dish. (Also, I consider it part of my all-of-the-above strategy in learning Spanish.)So we recently headed to Pupuseria Doña Azucena in Arlington for a true immersion experience.We didn’t actually order in Spanish or communicate with the staff in Spanish (see: embarrassment factor, getting over it). But we did talk to each other in Spanish. In hushed tones, in a table in the corner, so the other clientele wouldn’t laugh at our terrible accents and stumbling grasp of the language.But this post is about food, not language. Behold:Pupusas: Chicharron con Queso. (Pork with cheese.)I actually have been to Pupuseria Doña Azucena twice recently, once by myself for lunch after school and a second time with Kail. So I’ve had the opportunity to sample different items on the menu, including three types of pupusas: chicharron con queso, queso con ayote and loroco con queso (pork with cheese, cheese with squash and loroco (a Salvadoran plant) with cheese). Lots of cheese.Kail had pupusas also: chicharron con queso, queso con frijoles and chicharron con frijoles (pork with cheese, cheese with beans and pork with beans). We also shared a side of rice and beans. The pupusas are served with curtido, a traditional Salvadoran cabbage cole slaw, and a mild red salsa.Each pupusa only costs $1.50. Same with the sides.The time I had lunch by myself, I tried a pastel de carne, which sort of reminded me of an empanada:
This bad boy set me back a whole $1. It was good, but the pupusas really are the star of the show. True story: Despite having grown up in the Washington, DC area, home to one of the country’s largest populations of Salvadorans, I ate my first pupusa only a couple years ago, at Tortilla Cafe near Eastern Market (the one featured on the Food Network program “Diners Drive-Ins and Dives”). And I was not that big of a fan: Tortilla Cafe’s pupusas are very doughy.I wanted to give the pupusa another chance though, given the whole moving-to-El-Salvador thing. And I’m glad I did, because the pupusas at Pupuseria Doña Azucena are tasty.There are a couple other menu items that looked interesting, so we’ll probably be returning prior to departing for El Salvador. I would be worried about getting tired of pupusas given that we’ll be living in El Salvador for two years, except how can you get tired of fried corn tortillas stuffed with cheese and other delicious things?The Details: Pupuseria Doña AzucenaAddress: 71 North Glebe Road, Arlington, Va.Phone: 703-248-0332Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fri. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sat. 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sun. 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.Price Range: Very inexpensive ($1.50/pupusa)Good for Kids: Sí (Yes)Tips: If you dine-in, you will emerge smelling slightly of fried foods. Particularly if you sit at the counter, directly in the path of smoke wafting over from the stove. They do offer carryout.