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The sound of a delicious bargain

October 28, 2011|By Rebecca Bryant
  • The most popular items on the menu at Pupuseria del Valle, a Salvadoran restaurant in Burbank on Wednesday, October 26, 2011 including a homemade chicken tamale, revuelta papusas with mixed-pork, beans and cheese, handmade fried checken turnovers, and plantains. Their specialty is papusas. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)
The most popular items on the menu at Pupuseria del Valle,…

It’s comforting as you’re waiting for the pupusas you just ordered at a neighborhood Salvadoran joint to hear the slap, slap, slap of hands smacking masa into fat, tortilla-shaped discs. Your mouth starts watering, knowing the corn dough is being patted around the savory filling, and about to be tossed onto a sizzling griddle.

At Pupuseria del Valle, customers stream in on Tuesdays and Fridays for the $1 pupusas. Though, really, at less than two bucks on a regular day, the price is still right. A traditional Salvadoran food cooked for centuries, the pupusa (poo-POO-sah) can be filled with cheese, refried beans, a mixture of refried beans and pork, and much more. These three varieties are offered for the $1 deal.

Pupuseria del Valle’s versions are just as they’re supposed to be: masa crisp on the outside, soft on the inside with flavor bursting from the fillings. The above-mentioned three are all satisfying, and it feels like I’m ripping off the owner when I pay him the low price. The cheese is stretchy and tangy. The revuelto, with refried beans, cheese and pork, is a favorite. The queso con calabacitas mixes perfectly gooey cheese with the clean, earthy taste of Italian squash. Queso con loroco infuses the cheese filling with the fantastic edible Salvadoran flower loroco. Minced, it looks closest to green bell pepper, but gives a sharper, more interesting flavor.

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Pupuseria del Valley’s curtido, the traditional accompaniment of a vinegary slaw of cabbage, onion and carrot, is tart, sweet and crisp. The red sauce offers a savory touch of heat.

Chicken soup is a rich, delicious homemade broth, with slices of carrot and potato and other vegetables floating near the bottom. If you’re looking for chunks of chicken, you won’t find any. It’s broth and the vegetables, a light and comforting lunch, especially paired with a pupusa.

Pastelitos de pollo — handmade fried turnovers on the appetizer menu — are stuffed with shredded chicken, beautifully browned, crisp and addictive.

The yuca frita con chicharrones, deep fried yucca with fried pork skin, was a mixed experience. The chunks of pork (which appeared to be meat, not the skin) were so dry and brittle they reminded me of freeze-dried food used by backpackers or astronauts. But the fat fingers of yucca (think steak fries on steroids) were tasty, dipped in red sauce or smothered with curtido.

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