As we travel around Central America, on the food front we are seeing a few variations on what is, let’s face it, a very strong theme. Eggs, beans and plantains (cooking bananas) continue to be staples of our diets as well as the ubiquitous corn tortillas although here there are a few local variations just to spice things up a bit. (Actually on that front, the delicious Pico Mas spicy sauce is widely available although with some versions being hotter than others, you can be taken a little by surprise if you don’t pay attention!)
In Honduras, there was no getting away from (nor would you want to) the national dish, a baleada, which is a plate size tortilla stuffed with beans, eggs and sometimes additional items like chicken or beef and salad. These were delicious, filling and very cost effective at around a dollar or two a piece depending on how upmarket the eating establishment was.
El Salvador’s reply to the baleada comes in the form of the pupusa which are circles of cornmeal dough (tortilla size but thicker) stuffed with cheese and one or two other toppings such as beans (of course!), carrot, pumpkin, chicken or pork, which are then fried on a large hot plate. They are served with curtido (a mixture of pickled cabbage and vegetables) and a spicyish tomato sauce (although Pico Mas sauce also works a treat here). They cost 40 to 50 cents a piece at road side pupuserias and 3 each usually filled us up.
Sometimes we ate in places where there were no set menus and so you just got the plate of the day or whatever was going. In our hotel in Trujillo, the restaurant was closed but they still managed to rustle us up a plate of comida tipica: beans, dry cheese, eggs, sour cream, tortillas and some sausage. Only 12 hours later we found ourselves having an identical meal for breakfast albeit the latter was served with the ubiquitous strong (but very good) black coffee and some fruit juice. It is fair to say that you do end up eating a lot of meals which are very similar, but so far so good!
In this whole region, you might be forgiven for thinking that fried chicken was the traditional food (rather than refried beans and plantains) as there are a vast number of chicken shops each one branded with its own super happy cartoon chicken beckoning you in. Thus far though, we’ve managed to resist that particular “temptation” fairly easily!
On the drinks’ front, there are lots of good local beers to sample – Honduras in particular had quite a number of local brands such as Imperial, Salva Vida, Port Royal and Barena and El Salvador had its own brand pilsner, simply called El Salvador in some places or in others, just Pilsner. When we were in the Lake Yogoa area in Honduras, we stayed in a micro-brewery (the highly recommended D&D brewery) and so we had a few nights sampling the very locally brewed beers. What’s not to like?
And just as our language skills are improving (allegedly anyway), we get thrown a few curve balls. For example a pupuseria in Santa Ana served pupusa con queso y mora. Having sampled various smoothies with “mora” in Guatemala, we thought the combination of cheese and blackberry might be a little odd. However undaunted, we still ordered it although were secretly relieved when it turned out to be a cheese and wild spinach pupusa which was in fact pretty tasty. We’ve also come across “salsa inglesa” which seems to be quite popular in Guatemala. This is in fact the old classic, Worcestershire sauce, albeit not the Lea & Perrins variety.