September 27, 2021

Pupusas, arepas, gorditas: 3 delicious dishes representing unique cultures, bound together by masa

SAN FRANCISCO — Pupusas, arepas and gorditas — whereas these three Latin American favorites share a typical core ingredient, every represents the unique flavors and cultures of the nations the place the meals have been birthed.

Every of the dishes, distinct in taste and presentation, is bound together by a corn flour dough known as masa.

Victor Aguilera, a San Francisco-based chef and founding father of Arepas en Bici , has been slinging the Venezuelan favourite out of his Nob Hill house since he was pressured out of a restaurant job in March 2020 on the outset of the pandemic.

“In Venezuela, we call it the poor people’s food, unfortunately,” Aguilera stated.

However there’s nothing poor in style or high quality in his signature dish: the Arepa de Pabellon.

This arepa begins with a base of grilled masa and is topped with shredded beef, shredded cheese, beans and deep-fried plantains.

It is a mixture Aguilera known as a style of Venezuela.

On the core of the dish are elements present in his native nation, most notably the corn flour dough masa utilized in many Latin American cuisines.

“I prefer to use white corn flour. You can feel the difference in the taste and texture,” he stated as he demonstrated how rapidly the dough comes together inside his kitchen.

Aguilera has been making arepas since he was 4 years outdated, when he would make them along with his father on Sunday mornings, sneaking one of many snacks again into mattress with him.

He stated he has loved introducing Bay Space diners to a dish he considers a staple.

“It’s very important to stretch the knowledge of what the masa is. Not only is it a gluten-free option, but there are so many things you can do with it: fry it, grill it,” he stated.

“When you think Latin American food, you think of Central America, which is tacos. So I think it’s very important to keep showing this is a part of my culture. I’m going to keep it as traditional as I can,” he continued.

Just a few blocks away within the coronary heart of the Tenderloin, La Cocina Municipal Market is house to a Salvadorian household making delicious meals with masa.

The meals corridor’s Estrellita’s Snacks, owned by Estrella Gonzalez, cranks out mouthwatering pupusas within the kitchen of this long-running woman-owned enterprise.

“My grandmother started it in the Mission,” stated Angel Gonzalez, the third era to be concerned within the household enterprise. “My grandmother taught everyone [to make pupusas] from my cousin to aunties, and now my mom teaches everyone.”

To make pupusas, Gonzalez begins with a ball of masa that’s patted down right into a disc. The disc is then loaded with fillings like beans, cheese, veggies and meat, after which rolled again right into a ball earlier than being flattened down as soon as once more.

That is when the stuffed pupusas are able to hit the greased grill.

“The pupusa is a special dish. It’s the essential dish of the Salvadorian home. Most people will wonder where it is if you don’t have it,” Gonzalez stated.

La Cocina is open weekdays for the lunchtime rush from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and boasts being the primary women-led meals corridor within the nation.

After serving a hungry crowd through the lunch rush, Estrella demonstrated the genuine technique to get pleasure from a pupusa. Ditching the fork and knife diners are supplied, she loaded the pupusas with crimson salsa and a customary mix of pickled cabbage slaw and dug proper in together with her palms.

As she ripped the nice and cozy pupusa open, she revealed a cheese pull, stringy sufficient to make a Gen Z meals blogger rush for his or her smartphone.

She remarked in Spanish that whereas pupusas begin with a masa base, they’re nonetheless distinct from comparable Latin American favorites, just like the Mexican gordita.

“They are very different from gorditas because pupusas are closed and they don’t have cream inside, and the Mexican gorditas are open,” Gonzalez stated.

Throughout the bridge in Oakland, gorditas are on the menu at Mi Zacatecas Mexican Meals, and they’re as genuine as they’re massive.

“We make our fresh handmade tortilla. The gorditas are handmade when you order,” stated Cecilia Chairez, proprietor of Mi Zacatecas Mexican Meals.

Not solely are the tortillas made contemporary, however they’re made with love. Chairez’s mom, north of 80 years outdated, was visiting from the Northern Mexican state of Zacatecas and was serving to within the kitchen.

“I always was in the kitchen with mom. Mama always cooked gorditas,” she reminisced.

Chairez additionally makes her masa from scratch: first drying, then soaking and cooking the corn in a lime and water resolution. The corn is then washed earlier than grinding it into masa.

That dough then turns into the bottom of the gordita. The dough can be grilled, however with much less oil.

As soon as the masa is cooked and begins to inflate, Chairez grabs it off the grill and creates a gap with a spoon after which a pouch within the dough the place it inflated.

“We have a ground beef and potato that we call picadillo and papas. It’s in a red sauce — it’s a favorite,” Chairez stated. (*3*)

She stated whereas she sees extra genuine Mexican eating places within the Bay Space now than she did when she immigrated to the states within the 90s, none are serving genuine delicacies from the Northern Mexican state she calls house. Sharing this slice of her tradition is necessary in preserving her traditions alive.

“What I tried to do most with my food is educate the people about the differences in Mexican food,” she stated.

Aguilera expenses himself with an identical mission.

“I find it very important to follow these traditions to educate people on more [types of] Latin American food,” he stated.

“We hope that they are comfortable here and they can taste their home too,” Gonzalez stated. “They’ll always find a little bit of El Salvador at Estrellita’s Snacks.”

From actors to activists, folks share tales of celebrating their heritage, expressing their id as Latino, Latinx, or Hispanic, and representing and embracing their various cultures. Have fun Hispanic Heritage Month with “Our America: Todos Unidos” on ABC Owned Tv Stations streaming apps and Hulu.