National Pupusa Day can be celebrated in San Diego with Salvadoran authenticity – The San Diego Union-Tribune

The Central American population in San Diego has been rather small with the Salvadoran population being roughly 8,887, but it still finds its way to give back to the community through its cuisine, and the “pupusa” can be the dish that best ingratiates them.

In November, National Pupusa Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of the month. The Salvadoran government declared this day in April 2005 through legislation, and it has been celebrated in many different ways all around the world.

El Salvadoreño is a restaurant located in Barrio Logan that serves mainly Salvadoran cuisine and a few other foods from Central America, having been in business for nearly 26 years. Owner María Constanza has run her family business with success.

The pupusa is the national dish of El Salvador, the smallest Central American country. It is a filled, grilled corn pancake eaten with a homemade tomato sauce and a pickled cabbage called curtido.

Using the same corn masa that is used for many other Latin American staple dishes, pupusas are traditionally filled with beans, cheese, pork, squash, and loroco, a native flower bud that is a staple ingredient in Salvadoran cuisine.

“We were the first to establish a Salvadoran restaurant here in San Diego,” Constanza said. “I dedicate myself to a 100 percent Salvadoran and Central American cuisine here at my restaurant.”

Constanza started her business in 1995 with what began with a small kitchen selling only pupusas to customers. She came to the United States looking for the American dream, and she found it through her passion for food.

Growing up in San Miguel, a city from eastern El Salvador, Constanza only knew her life through food. She recounted helping her mother in the kitchen and learning how to make pupusas as a young girl.

When Constanza arrived in the United States in 1987, she began cleaning kitchens and hotels until she saved enough money to lease a small little space for her restaurant. That space is directly adjacent to the current location, as it has grown since then.

She mentioned that she uses the best quality ingredients she can find to give her customers the best quality food. According to Constanza, her food pantry staples such as beans are imported from El Salvador. She tries to provide a reasonable price for her customers for the quality food.

The restaurant rush hour is usually in the afternoon, as that is lunchtime for many. The only complaints she has received is the delay in being served, but she stated that each dish is prepared once it is ordered, ensuring the customer will be served a well-prepared dish.

The pupusa is the national dish of El Salvador, the smallest Central American country.

The pupusa is the national dish of El Salvador, the smallest Central American country.

(Noé Sandoval)

While pupusas are what Salvadoran cuisine is known for, the restaurant also provides customers with other authentic dishes, from fried plantains to Salvadoran tamales. Casamiento is also a very simple, authentic side dish served at the restaurant; rice and beans are heated together in a fried pan to be “married” causing the bean broth to be absorbed by the rice.

El Salvadoreño has been featured in a Youtube video on Pero Like, a Latino lifestyle Youtube channel about Latino culture in the United States.

Constanza has been happy to show her customers about her food.

“Many of our customers are not Salvadoran themselves,” Constanza said. “Almost everyday I have a customer trying a pupusa or Salvadoran cuisine for the first time.”

She continues to highlight her passion and love for her work by providing a great friendly environment for her customers. Her restaurant is a family business, and she receives help from her husband and daughter to run the restaurant.

Sisters Kandy Azevedo and Yared Azevedo have been regular customers for about 15 years. They grew up going to the restaurant with their family at a young age.

“It was a family tradition coming to the restaurant every Sunday after church growing up,” Kandy said. “We love the service and the food here.”

The Azevedo sisters also commented that they grew up learning lots about Salvadoran cuisine because of going to the restaurant frequently, even though they were raised in a Mexican household.

The restaurant’s employees also see the success and drive the restaurant has through Constanza.

Dalia Benítez is a cook for the restaurant and assistant to Constanza. She has worked there for four years and has found a place where she really enjoys working. Benítez is originally from Honduras, and lives in San Diego.

“When I came here I was looking for a place similar to home,” Dalia said. “I found this place to be a way to not miss my home through food. After coming here so much, I decided I wanted to help out and was hired.”

El Salvadoreño has been a catalyst for Salvadoran and Central American cuisine in San Diego, and with Constanza’s passion customers are able to take a cultural lesson about El Salvador everyday through delicious authentic food.

Sandoval is a freelance writer.