Sunday, March 14, 2010

Homage to Dona Azucena from Abroad

Today, my new friend Dona Sonia is going to help teach me how to make pupusas. I will blog on this hopefully later today. Sonia is my friend Elisa's new "host mom," even though we're not on study abroad or anyhing, but Sonia and her two sons have been exceedingly welcoming and friendly to me and to Elisa, who rents a room just off their back patio. Sonia runs a little Mexican restaurant out of her house (her late husband was Mexican, so she's quite authentic!), and has already opened up her kitchen and home to me on more than one occasion. I love having cooking/cultural exchanges as I think food is one of the best ways to get to know the heart and soul of people (but then again, I just really like food). In return, I will be teaching Sonia and her kids how to make Peanut Butter Blossoms in the coming weeks!

But before I go on my pupusa making adventure, I just wanted to set the record straight about one thng. I am still convinced (much to the chagrin of all the Central Americans to whom I mention this...) that the best pupusas in the WORLD--yes, the WORLD--are served at Dona Azucena's on Glebe Rd in Arlington, VA. This seems to be confirmed by the interwebs ;) (See reviews below) Why? I find them to be the cheesiest and most delectible pupusas I have ever had. Extra cheese makes everything better. So when I make my pupusas today, I will have all the good folks in the kitchen at Dona Azucena's in mind. I only hope I can pat out a pupusa like them someday ;)


"...when you try to open the door to Dona Azucena, you are up against a wall of people trying to get in. All the tables are full, and there's a line three deep waiting to order at the counter."

"When you are starving and the rent is due, yes you can afford to eat out. It is called... the Pupusa.

I don't know how I would have made it through college at the Univ. of Maryland without this handy standby at the Flower Avenue location. Plus, I know of no other pupuseria in town that offers the bean/cheese combo as does Dona Azucena's. To me Dona Azucena's is an unofficial Washington area landmark, it introduced the pupusa to many a gringo such as myself and it was and remains cheap.

Viva Dona Azucena's!!!"
--Shahnaz S.

"I've never eaten better pupusas, not even in El Salvador!

This place is 100% authentic, from the way they're served to the curtido and salsa. It will be a huge culture shock if you've never had it before, but just pile on the curtido (cabbage) and red sauce on top of your pupusas and dig in. My favorites are the Revuelta (Cheese, Pork and Beans) and the queso pupusas. If you want to try something really different go for the queso con loroco (loroco is an edible flower from Central America).

If you are feeling adventurous for something different, or nostalgic for something Salvadorean this is a great place."
--Ana O.

Both quotes from


After we get though one more week of exams, I will finally be going to Roatan for spring break, THANKYOUVERYMUCH!!!

Here is where we are going:

Since it's an all-inclusive resort, Cecilia and I can only afford to go for 2 nights, but all-inclusive resorts get kind of boring after that amount of time anyway. We will also be spending 2 nights in La Ceiba which has lots of fun clubs and restaurants :) Can't wait!!! I'm finally getting to the Bay Islands!!! Woohoooo!!!!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


In keeping with the recipe theme, here is another way to use up pineapple skins.. homemade vinegar for encurtido! I did this back in... october? november? And my batches are only just now turning vinegar-y. I'll continue to check on them and hopefully be able to make my own encurtido. These pickled vegetables are one of my favorite parts of Honduran cuisine :) Enjoy the article (reposted from an English-language Honduras weekly news site)!

Here are my personal batches of vinegar-to-be bubbling on the stove :)

Prepare your own 'encurtido' at home


On the table of many restaurants are large glass jars of pickled vegetables, generally called chile or encurtido, which are placed on bland dishes like scrambled eggs and pupusas to add some zest.

In preparing encurtido, many cooks prefer to use pineapple peel vinegar that can be made according to this recipe contributed by Miriam Herrera:

2 liters of water|
2 tablespoons salt
1/2 block of rapadura de dulce (raw sugar cane, available in markets)
pineapple peels

At least 1 teaspoon of ginger, spices (especies), oregano, allspice (pimienta gorda), cloves, cinnamon, 5 bay leaves, a little bit of hot pepper.

Boil the water with all these ingredients. Let them ferment for one month, then bottle it.

There are a number of vegetables that can be added to make chili or encurtido. To begin you could try these and then vary according to your tastes.

2 medium carrots
10 green beans
1/2 medium cauliflower
3 small onions
1/2 red chili
1/2 green pepper
3 baby corn (jilote)
1/2 broccoli
hot peppers

Wash all the vegetables. Peel and cut them up. Scald each vegetable the time it needs. Place the mixed vegetables in previously sterilized jars. Add vinegar to cover. Remove the air by moving a kitchen knife around the glass. Seal the jars.

Apply the final sterilization by boiling in a little water for 15 minutes as if for canning. Open, let the air out after 24 hours, then close again immediately.

Other vegetables that can be added are pataste (chayote), small cucumbers, green mangos, and radishes.

Different vegetables need to cook different times, which is why many people prefer to make encurtido with only a few vegetables. Cauliflower (1 minute), carrots (3 minutes), green beans (3 minutes), green mangos (2 minutes), pataste (2 minutes), cucumbers (1 minute), baby corn (2 minutes), cabbage (3 minutes), broccoli (2 minutes), chiles and green peppers (30 seconds).

If you do not want to do all this work, there may be a woman in your neighborhood who makes good encuritdo. You can usually encargar or order some.

It is also possible to buy commercially prepared encurtido. But no one makes it commercially in Honduras. The bottled encurtido sold in stores is usually made in Guatemala.

Gloria Ferrera, a native of El Paraiso, explains one possible reason why this is true. "My mother made excellent encurtido. As children, we used to help her deliver it to the neighbors. Between all of us, we could have gotten together enough money to help her start a small factory to produce encurtido commercially. But we did not think big. She just sold to the neighbors. Now she is too old, and my children have to eat encurtido from Guatemala."

There are dozens of homemade foods, like traditional candies, jams and jellies, pickled foods and homemade wines that could be produced commercially. Often it is small problems like where to get jars in significant quantities, how to price the product, how to get a label to stick to glass, lack of clarity if the jars are really sterilized, how to apply for a health department registration approval number, how to apply for a small business license, what taxes need to be paid, and a complete lack of access to credit, that prevent many women from starting these kinds of businesses.

Although millions of dollars are donated annually to help Honduras support small business, Honduras has no Small Business Administration where people could go for help, information, advice or loans. There are all kinds of incentives to bring foreign businesses here, and no help for local people who want to start local business such as producing encurtidos, jams or jellies that could replace Honduran dependence on imports.


Some new recipes!

I just wanted to share a few recipes that I've tried in the last few months that take advantage of the variety of tropical fruit here in Honduras! We have a HUGE mango tree in our backyard that is just starting to be pollinated and produe tiny, bean-sized mangoes... apparently in April, they will be in full swing and we will have so many we won't know what to do with them! Until then, I present you two other recipes...

Our neighbors have a papaya tree that also blesses us abundantly... half the time, when they share a huge slice with us, I can't think of what to do with it before it goes rotten. After some searching, I found this recipe that has been a hit at the potlucks we have every so often.

Papaya Tomato Salsa

1 lb ripe papaya (one small or 1/2 large), peeled, seeded, and finely diced
4 large ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 cup diced red onion
2 tbsp finely minced jalapeno peppers
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
zest of one lime
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
salt to taste

Gently combine ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve, up to 4 hours.

My friend Ms. Karen (the one whose house and farm up on the Volcan I absolutely LOVE) showed me the following recipe, a good way to use up pineapple peelings from the fresh fruit you eat here. I've noticed a difference between the pineapple here in Honduras and the one we ate in Costa Rica. The fresh pineapple here is called azucarron ("really sugar-y") and it tastes a lot like the supersweet canned pineapple we get in the states, even though it is in fresh-fruit form. It has a deep yellow fruit. The ones we ate in Costa Rica had almost a white fruit and were much firmer and tart--like eating a sweettart candy. I got used to the acidity and got to like it by the time I left--some people liked it so much and ate so much of it that they got sores in their mouth!!! Not going to happen with Honduran pineapple. Anyway, this is a good way to reuse those peelings before you compost.

Pineapple "Tea"

Core + peel of 1 pineapple, well-scrubbed
1-2 cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp whole allspice (pimienta gorda)
1 1" hunk fresh ginger
2 qts water

Boil all ingredients together for 10-15 minutes. Strain in a colander and serve hot. Taste tart and cinnamon-y, like hot apple cider! Add sugar, to taste, but I didn't need any.