$3 Pupusas in Santa Monica

It is Tuesday afternoon and as I am walking down Pico Boulevard toward 14th Street, I feel the heat of the sun and the nasty smell of rush hour traffic.

Tired of campus cafeteria food and hungry for something new, I have heard there is a woman that makes pupusas, a traditional El Salvadorian dish.

A pupusa is a kind of stuffed corn tortilla filled with a combination of cheese, red silk beans as a basis. Then usually either pork, meat, veggies, or loroco, which is an exotic, edible flower, is added.

My stomach growls as I look for a place to eat, starved from the same old boring and expensive cafeteria food. I know what I'm looking for. Katty's Pupusas is my destination.

Katty Salinas, a 35-year-old-single mother originally from El Salvador, opened her own pupusa stand with the co-operation of the YWCA four months ago.

Salinas began serving pupusas in the lobby of the YWCA, but after some weeks, a significant amount of increase in customers mostly from the YWCA made Salinas expand her business to the parking lot.

The first thing I noticed with my first bite is how well the crispy, thick tortilla shell blends with the warm, soft cheese-filled inside. Delicious would be the easiest way to describe it. Salinas was right when she said that all the flavors blend together perfectly, making for a mild yet distinguished flavor.

For those of you that have never tried this dish, pupusas are very similar to Mexican gorditas with a thicker, corn-based dough.

In terms of texture, the corn dough really lifts this dish for me. The hand-baked corn dough separates itself from the inside, making for a very unique texture.

On the inside, the red silk beans become almost a sort of paste that blends well with the soft, cheese filling.

Before making pupusas, Salinas used to work as a preschool teacher in Santa Monica.

"I decided to go for my passion," she said. Salinas attended culinary school at Saint Joseph.

"Most pupuserias are found more around central Los Angeles, but even those places take shortcuts and don't represent the dish accurately," Salinas said. "So I wanted to conserve the tradition and give accurate representation of pupusas."

"The beans alone take around two hours to prepare." she said. "Pupusas have actually been the main dish of my country for 2,000 years."

Salinas said that all her ingredients are organic and that she uses 100 percent trans fat free grape seed oil.

I ordered one pupusa revuelta, which is filled with cheese, red silk beans and pork meat, and one spinach pupusa.

"All the ingredients are cooked at the same time as the corn flour, letting all the spices and flavors mix," Salinas said.

I did order two pupusas. However, considering I am a small giant, most people should be satisfied with one.

At $3 each, there are few places around campus that can beat great taste of these pupusas, making Katty's Pupusa a food option near campus that is very hard to beat.

In the YWCA parking lot at the intersection of Pico Boulevard and 14th Street, you will find Katty's Pupusas stand. Salinas serves pupusas on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Simon Luca ManiliComment