Juayúa food festival – El Salvador

Juayúa, one of the key towns along the Ruta de Flores, is famous for its weekend food festival that is held in and round the central park.   For this reason, a whole bunch of us from the Casa Verde ended up descending on the town in order to eat our way through the culinary delights of El Salvador.

Unfortunately, although there was plenty of food, it wasn’t quite what we were expecting. Only one and a bit streets were set up with food stalls and most were selling very similar things – large plates of chicken, beef, or chorizo with rice, tortillas, and salad.

Juayúa food festival - El Salvador

We had all been expecting more of a “tasting” style of festival, where you could buy small portions of different dishes, including typical dishes from El Salvador.  But, given that that was not to be, both Susan and I agreed that this beef and prawn skewer was the best looking dish of the weekend.  Must admit, it was incredibly tasty!

Juayúa food festival - El Salvador

Later that night, after we had managed to digest most of lunch, we were wandering around town and found a stall set up in a different street (ie not part of the food festival) that sold a more typical dish – riguas.   These are like the ubiquitous pupusa, but while pupusas are made from dried corn masa, riguas are made from sweet corn masa.  It’s the same idea as tortillas in Nicaragua being made of dried corn masa and Güirilas being made of sweet corn masa.  Of course we had to try!

Juayúa food festival - El Salvador - Riguas

I was surprised to find that the sweet corn taste was not as strong as it is in the Güirilas in Nicaragua, but that might have been because these were stuffed with a heap of cheese that perhaps masked the flavour somewhat.  Still yum, and Susan declared that she actually preferred them to pupusas!  Big call!

On the Sunday we hit the food festival again and this time headed straight to the one stall that was selling more traditional food – particularly focused on corn (a dead giveaway that it is more typical in Central America).    While Susan went back in for the Riguas (this time with coconut instead of cheese – the cheese ones were better), I wanted to try the Elotes Locos (Crazy Corn) and the Atól con Elote.

Elotes Locos is a corn cob that has been boiled and then covered in tomato sauce, mayonnaise and mustard.  Finally, the server throws grated Parmesan cheese around the outside so that it sticks to the sauces.  It’s surprisingly good – even for a person who doesn’t really like mayonnaise.

Juayúa food festival - El Salvador - elotes locos y atol con elote
Elotes locos (left) and Atól con Elote (right)

Atól con Elote, yet another type of Atól, was super-sweet and, as the name suggests, had kernels of sweet corn buried in the thick drink.  Not for you if you don’t have a sweet tooth!

To finish off lunch, I had to have a pincho de fruta – another very common dessert in El Salvador, and they looked so good!  It is essentially a fruit skewer that has been frozen and is then dipped in chocolate and coated in nuts/sprinkles/etc in front of you after you have ordered.  I had the “mixto” with a strawberry, massive grape, banana, watermelon and pineapple, and Susan eventually caved into to have one just with strawberries.   Again – yum!

Juayúa food festival - El Salvador - pinchos

Also managed to try a few other foods over the course of the 3 days I was in Juayúa, including: chorizo (not as tasty as I’d hoped and drier than I am used to), Torta de Queso (cheesecake with a texture between the cheesecake we are familiar with and flan), Tortitas de Elote (essentially balls of sweetcorn that have been deep fried), and quesadilla.  Yes, a quesadilla in El Salvador is quite different to what we would think of.  It is not a cheesy tortilla, it is essentially a butter cake!

Juayúa food festival - El Salvador
Clockwise: Chorizo, Torta de Queso, Tortitas de Elote, and Quesadilla.

Lots of eating, and that’s not even counting the pupusería we went to 2 nights running with others we’d met at the Casa Verde!  This was one of the best pupuserías I found in El Salvador and was very popular with the locals as well.

Juayúa - best Pupuseria

Pupusas are amazingly addictive and dirt cheap – yes at is US 60 cents for one!  I had tried all the pupusas on this list (except the Locas, which is an extra-big pupusa with everything in it), and the one pictured here with a mountain of curtido (cabbage salad) is the Papelillo – yet another green leaf.  The reason there is a little pile of green papelillo on the plate is that when I ordered it I asked what it was.  The cooks were lovely and included this taster for me as well 🙂   The people in El Salvador are just amazing!

If you want to know my top 3 pupusa flavours:

  1. Frijoles y queso (refried beans and cheese)
  2. Pollo y Jalapeño (chicken and jalapeño chili and cheese)
  3. Camarones (prawns and cheese)

I’m really going to miss pupusas when I leave El Salvador!


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