Wednesday, August 8, 2007

And Now, A Short Pupusas Break

All this talk of El Salvador got me hungry for some pupusas. Luckily, you can get them fresh and hot right here in Austin.

Just when I thought my town couldn't offer any more surprises, a hot tip from some fellow foodies led me to El Zunzal restaurant in east Austin.

Tucked away right off of East 7th Street next to HEB, El Zunzal is serving up a mouth-watering menu of Salvadoran favorites. And you'd better be able to speak a little Spanish. Comprende?

On my first visit a couple weeks ago, I had to satisfy my craving for pupusas, which were pretty much a spot-on copy of what we ate in El Salvador. The only thing I noticed that was different was the spicy slaw-like curtido looked different here. It was much more purple than what we remembered getting on our trip, but it still tasted the same.

Michele and I noticed a couple of other dishes there that we're determined to come back and try: First, the pollo frito en tejadas, which I read all about in this restaurant review from our local newspaper. It's spiced chicken that's grilled, fried and topped with a thick sauce of tomatoes, onions and peppers, then placed on a bed of shredded cabbage. Sign me up, please. Second, as we bit down on our pupusas, we noticed some steaming, heaven-scented bowls of seafood soup wafting by to other tables. We could tell it was amazing.

As we got ready to leave the restaurant, I looked up and noticed a familiar crest hanging on the wall. It's the national symbol of El Salvador, which is proudly displayed not only across the country, but by Salvadoran immigrants all over the world.

All around the restaurant, little pieces of El Salvador are everywhere. You can see it in the food, in the beer, in the art on the walls. Just being here - eating a pupusa and soaking up the atmosphere - reminded me just how much I fell in love with the land and the people of El Salvador.

If a visit to El Zunzal can have that effect on someone who's only spent a week in El Salvador, I can only imagine how Austin's Salvadoran immigrants must feel when they come here.

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