At around the same time that the Dead Sea scrolls were being written, the people of El Salvador were cooking pupusas over an open wood fire. Little did they know that the ground beneath them was shifting, until suddenly the Santa Ana volcano erupted with such force that it blew its top, covering these people’s world with a deadly layer of searing-hot ash.
Around 2000 years later, however, their legacy lives on. Those very pupusas that were being cooked on that fateful day were crystallised, perfectly preserving them in both space and time.
Despite the near extinction of an ancient civilisation, the pupusa survived and thrived for generation after generation until it was finally brought across the Atlantic Ocean to central Madrid, in a Salvadoran restaurant near Atocha station.
The pupusas you can find in Pupusería Madrid Río Grande Atocha come in two sizes (tip: get lots of little ones so you can try more flavours). Pupusas are made of either rice or maize flour and are typically filled with black beans, cheese and loroco flowers. They’re served piping hot – crispy on the outside and chewy and melty on the inside.
On the table, to go with your pupusas, you’ll find a large jar of lightly fermented cabbage (warning: spice levels vary), and a small jug of fresh tomato sauce.
We’ve been to this Pupusería many times, mainly for pupusas, but there are also around 50 other items on the menu, including the plato típico, which is a plate of traditional Salvadoran ingredients including plantain, black beans and curd cheese and is also served with two unfilled pupusas to help you shovel it all down.
And the nachos are pretty good too…
But we learned, after coming here a few times, that all we want are the pupusas…
The traditional ingredients and rustic simplicity of pupusas haven’t changed for millennia – and why would they when they’re this good?
Go and see for yourself, but make sure you call ahead, as the pupusería is a very popular spot with people in search of a taste of home.