Photo by Constanza Hevia H.
Steamed in banana leaves, the tamales arrive slick and soft.
But those pupusas. They’re traditional in size — a bit smaller, thinner, and more delicate than those you’ll find at some other Bay Area eateries, which often serve thick, heavy pucks with too much masa and not enough filling. These are pupusas sized for picking up with your hands, as you should. You’ll find the staple fillings of cheese, zucchini, refried beans, and pork, as well as combinations of them. If you order one with cheese, you will get those satisfying cheese pulls — add loroco, small, green unopened flower buds, for a bit of lightness and freshness, or pork for double the unctuousness. Fish and shrimp are other, more unusual options. The itty-bitty flecks of fish melt into the cheese so the flavor is imperceptible, but the juicy hunks of shrimp work well. There’s also a rice flour variation, which arrives a bit paler, firmer, and less sweet than the usual corn.
What most impressed me, though, was the curtido, the lightly fermented cabbage, carrot, onion, and oregano slaw that’s absolutely required for pupusa enjoyment. It delivered beautiful crunch and sharp tang, heightened by the red, tomato-based, and vinegar-forward salsa.
El Salvador Taqueria y Pupuseria
6520 Foothill Blvd., Oakland
Hours: Mon., Tue., Thu. 11 a.m.–7 p.m.; Fri. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat., Wed. 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
Cash, all major credit cards