Sunday, June 8, 2008

Bean and Cheese Pupusas

I've been a bit obsessed with Pupusas lately. [Pupusas is pronounced poo-poo-sas (the "a" sounds like it does in the word "call")]

It all started about a little over a month or so ago, when I saw them mentioned on one of my favorite Web sites, Serious Eats.

Intrigued, I did a little research on pupusas and looked at some pictures. I was completely baffled in that I'd never heard of them before. I thought I was well-versed on Latin American foods.

As soon as I got a chance (a week or so later), I made a trek to Waltham, MA where there is a little, informal restaurant called Guanachapi's. Their menu is a mix of Guatemalan, Salvadoran (that's El Salvador), and Mexican foods. By the way, Guanachapi is a slang term for someone who is of both Guatemalan and El Salvadoran heritage.

I ordered two types of pupusas: a cheese pupusa and a bean one. The cheese pupusa was okay. It probably would have been better if I had dipped it in the sauce they gave me, but I was in the car and wanted to try my pupusa while it was hot. The cheese was a bland, white cheese. I'm not sure of the type, but I don't think it was queso fresco because it did melt. It had a wee bit of some sort of chile pepper in it, but not enough for me. Here's a picture of that very pupusa from Guanachapi's:

Perhaps you notice that opening on the top where the white cheese is visible with a tiny bit of a green something.

The bean pupusa was much more flavorful. Not only did it have beans (of brown or pink persuasion), but it also had cheese. This pupusa was heavenly, though there was no way to make it attractive when I took this photo in the car:

Now that I had eaten a real pupusa, I was ready to try making them at home. My recipe here is my own. I actually had some experience with the dough part because it is the same dough that is used to make sopes (a Mexican dish). In fact, a pupusa is very similar to a sope (pronounced soap-ay) when it comes to ingredients. I'll have to do a post on sopes some day.

I would have liked to have used a Mexican cheese for my pupusas, but I was unable to go to the bodega. It's a little far from here. So I decided to try some medium asiago that I saw at the grocery store. Looking back at that decision, I think I'd go for a fresh asiago next time because it is less sharp in taste. Other options for cheese in this dish would be monterrey jack, farmer's cheese, or mozarella. Since I significantly flavor the beans in my recipe, any of these milder cheeses would be appropriate. Other than that, I was quite impressed with my pupusa experiment. I will recommend my recipe to you!

For my pupusas today, I used about 2 tablespoons of Xochitl asado sauce (sold in supermarkets and Trader Joe's). If I had a different tomatillo-based sauce, I may have used less of it. The Xochitl was pretty watery and had less flavor than tomatillo salsa. So I'm going to say to use the amount of tomatillo salsa that makes you happy.

Black Bean and Cheese Pupusas

For the Masa (Dough)
1 cup masa harina (Maseca or MasaRica)
1 cup water
1/2 tsp. salt

For the Filling
1 (15 oz) can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 Tbs. tomatillo salsa
1/3 cup chopped sweet onion
vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup mild white cheese (monterrey jack, fresh asiago,farmer's cheese, or mozarella)

Begin by making the filling.

Sautee the onion in oil with salt and pepper.

Add the drained and rinsed beans.

Add the tomatillo salsa. You will have something that looks like this.

Put the bean mixture into a food processor or mash by hand. You will have a mash that resembles this:

Add the cheese. This is my filling once I added the cheese:

Start making the dough.

Mix the masa harina, salt, and water in a deep bowl with your hands. It will seem way too watery at first, but as you continue to mix, the water will be absorbed. You want the consistency of the dough to be soft, moist, and workable. Think of a fresh canister of play dough. It will be a little less rubbery than that.

Take a handful of the dough and make a ball between your palms. Mold the ball into the shape of a little bowl as it is in this picture:

This particular ball of dough was the perfect consistency. Your dough is too dry if the edges crack.

Put some bean and cheese filling into that little bowl, leaving enough room at the top so that you can bring the edges up and have the filling completely contained inside the dough.

Begin passing the dough from hand to hand, flattening it a little with each pass from left to right:

If you see the edges begin to crack, as mine did, moisten your hand with just a little bit of watter and pat the dough more to moisten it just slightly. When your dough is the right consistency, it will look like this once it is filled and properly patted into a pancake shape:

When all your pupusa patties are ready, heat a heavy, wide-bottomed or flat skillet until hot. Brush the pupusas with oil and cook them on each side 4-5 minutes until they turn golden-brown. The outside should be firm.

Here was my first good pupusa (I had to throw away my first batch due to quality control).

Look at that little bit of bean and cheese mash beginning to ooze out of the pupusa! Yum!

This particular pupusa had more oil than the other two. If you look at the picture below, this pupusa is the one on the left. It's more browned than the others because of that extra oil.

I cracked the next one open so you can see what it looks like:

Enjoy your pupusas while they are still hot.


Anonymous said...

The green stuff is called "Loroco" ... the Loroco is small green unopened flower buds used as an herb for flavoring in central america ... I'm glad that you like the pupusas, If sooooooome day (maybe) you have the opportunity to try a pupusa made in el salvador do it ! cuz the pupusas that you buy here have nothing to do with the real salvadoran pupusas !

Anonymous said...

your beans are too thick.

they should almost look like the consistency of your dough, same with the cheese. also, you're dough needs more water. you're handling it too much, that's why you got the cracks.

great first try though ! :) I absolutely LOVE them

Anonymous said...


Farita said...

wow! pupusas! im a salvadorean girl, that's our nacional food and i love them, like the others said you need to put a little bit more or water cuz they don't have to had crakcs, and the beans you can put then in the blender machine firts and then put then on the fridge for an hour or two or you can buy a can of refried beans in the market an use it like that,try other fillings two like pork beans and cheese or cheese with loroco. ^^