I love that even in my very own small city of Grand Rapids, Michigan I can walk into a local establishment and be swept off to another culture for a moment. I felt this today when on a whim I entered “Pupuseria El Salvador.” From the not so grandiose entrance, to the mismatched decor, greetings of buenos dìas from behind the counter and the buzz of Spanish filling my ears–a smile swept my face. I knew that the food was going to be muy bien before my first taste.
I walked up to the counter, and since this was a pupuseria decided upon ordering a few pupusas. I asked the young lady which were the most popular and decided upon the Camaron (shrimp) Puerco y Queso (pork and cheese) and the Loroco, a vine with edible flowers which is native to Salvador and was described as tasting of green bean.
The pupusa is a lovely, little pocket of masa filled with bubbling cheese and your choice of veg or meat. They are served with a type of slaw called curtido which to me tasted subtly of kimchee. I was not too far off in that curtido is fermented cabbage with red chili, vinegar and a tomato based sauce. It paired well with the pupusa and extended a nice crunch effect.
My eyes were also drawn to a bebidà called Atol de Elote (Hot Drink of Corn) and was told it was good, so I added that to my orde. I am so glad that I did….dang it was phenomenal!!! I immediately had to look up a recipe and found that it is fresh corn on the cob mixed with water, then boiled with sugar, cinnamon sticks and vanilla. The consistency is quite thick with a milky taste of cinnamon and sweetness with bits of fresh sweet corn. Atoles have roots to ancient Mayan culture and are considered a comfort food. If corn doesn’t suit your taste there are flavors such as chocolate and pineapple too!
Atol de Elote
4 to 6 servings
6 ears of corn yellow corn (Frozen corn can be used in a pinch, but the flavor won’t be nearly as good.)
4 cups water
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Slurry of cornstarch (3 teaspoons mixed with just enough water), optional
NOTE: Because the corn used in Central America is starchier, you may have to add the suggested cornstarch to achieve the lightly thickened consistency.
Ground cinnamon, to taste
Using a sharp knife cut the kernels of corn off of the cobs to make about 3-3 1/2 cups. Scrape the cobs with a knife to remove all their milk. Place 2 1/2 cups of the corn in a blender along with 2 cups of the water and puree until smooth.
Strain the pureed corn through a sieve into a medium saucepan and discard the solids. Stir in the remaining corn kernels, sugar and salt.
Bring the corn mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, or until lightly thickened. At this point if the atom isn’t thick and creamy, mix in the cornstarch slurry and whisk until mixed throughout.
Pour the hot atol into mugs or small bowls, sprinkle with a little cinnamon and serve hot