You think Austin and San Antonio have beef over tacos?
The origin of the pupusa led to a minor international incident between El Salvador and Honduras during the negotiations of the Dominican Republic–Central America Free Trade Agreement in 2003, with each country wanting to claim the doughy treat as its exclusive export. The crisis was narrowly averted and a couple of years later the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly named the pupusa the country’s national dish. Problem solved?
The soft rounds of stuffed masa at El Sunzal (named after a beach in El Salvador) in East Austin (642 Calles St.) come in several varieties. A creamy version at a recent lunch included quesillo cheese and a fatty paste of ground pork (chicharrón). The mixture is spread on the dough, which is then folded over and cooked (likely in pork fat) on a flat-top grill to a sunglow finish. A side of chopped cabbage in a pool of vinegar (cortido de repollo) gave a crunchy, acidic bite to cut the fat.
The fluffy and chewy pupusas cost $2 each, and you can also order traditional mixtures of cheese and refried beans or cheese and bright green bits of loroco, a plant native to Central America. I wish there had been more of the loroco, as it was hard to ascertain the flavor of the slightly nutty and bitter bud.