What are typical El Salvadoran habits, food customs, recipes and philosophies in El Salvador?

What are the customs in El Salvador regarding food?

  • Although El Salvador's cuisine is often still referred to as "pretty basic," today that is partly obsolete. Many chefs have trained internationally and employ creative cooking techniques around ingredients from around the country.
  • Of course, you'll still find traditional corn, beans, plantains and cheese in many dishes.
  • You will also find the fried plantain, in many sub-forms, everywhere in El Salvador; certainly on buses, at bus stations and on the streets.

What are the best recipes in El Salvador?

  • The "must try" national dish of El Salvador is "pupusas": a type of tortilla/arepa (corn or rice flour dough) filled with cheese and/or beans, seafood, meat and/or vegetables. You often get it served with a coleslaw mix and tomato salsa.
  • Tamales, which you find all over Central America-and thus also in El Salvador. Often sold in a roadside stand or around local and regional buses. In El Salvador, tamales are pretty "standard": a cornmeal dough filled with meat, usually chicken or pork. The whole mixture is wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed for several hours, until the filling forms a soft but dense "bread.
  • Yuca con chicharron: yuca is literally a "starchy root vegetable" and chicharron is fried pork belly with (tasty) bits of crispy skin. The yuca is boiled or fried, topped with pork and served with the same curtido that accompanies pupusas. It is almost always served at room temperature, which is why it is sometimes called a salad.
  • Chorilonza: cross between Spanish chorizo and longiza sausages: the spicy chorilonza snack is found mostly on the "Ruta de Flores" (western part El Salvador).
  • Ceviche is also widely eaten in El Salvador: raw fish, mussels, clams or shrimp that are "cooked" with acid, usually lime juice and then mixed with fresh shallots and other ingredients.

What are the best drinks in El Salvador?

  • Horchata is a sweet, spiced drink in which jicaro seeds are used as a base in El Salvador. The ground seeds are mixed with cocoa, cinnamon and coriander seeds before being mixed with milk or water, vanilla and sugar. It is often served over ice cream.
  • Beer from the artisanal Cadejo brewery (Zona Rosa in San Salvador or at El Tunco on the coast) holds its own internationally.
  • Like Guatemala, El Salvador produces very good coffee. The rich, volcanic soil and hilly landscapes are a good base for this coffee. Visit a coffee plantation along the Ruta de las Flores and learn about the entire coffee production process.
  • Ponche is a simple mixture of milk flavored with cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg and vanilla. A dash(s) of rum is added; it is a festive drink often encountered in all kinds of celebrations or special occasions.
  • Salvadoran rum is inexpensive but often of high quality. The cultivation of sugar cane is important to the Salvadoran economy.
  • Popular non-alcoholic drinks include "pinol," roasted ground corn mixed with water, and "tiste," a variation made with cocoa beans and corn.
  • You can go anywhere in El Salvador for a fresh liquada or batida; a mix of fruit with water or milk. For health reasons, it is advisable to ask for chilled milk or water from a new, sealed bottle.

What are notable holidays and festivals in El Salvador?

  • On January 16, 1992, the Salvadoran government and the FMLN guerrilla signed peace accords in Mexico, ending the brutal armed conflict. Every year on this date they celebrate the "National Day of the Victims of the Armed Conflict."
  • As in many other (Catholic) Central American countries, the week around Easter is a real "celebration week" in El Salvador, with many (flower) processions ("alfombra de flores"). Many people are free and visit family or go to the beach.
  • Annually on August 31, Las Bolas de Fuego (Balls of Fire) are celebrated in Nejapa, a small municipality just north of San Salvador. Las Bolas de Fuego is both one of the best and craziest festivals in El Salvador. Crowds gather along both sides of the main street and watch as the people of Nejapa hurl flaming (kerosene!) rag balls at each other for a few hours. The more than 100-year-old tradition commemorates the eruption of the volcano El Playón (1658).
  • Día de Independencia (Independence Day) is celebrated in El Salvador on September 15. Independence from the Spanish is the focus of this national holiday: parades, fireworks and (lots of) food.
  • A young girl's 15th birthday is considered a special date in El Salvador...and is celebrated extensively.

What are the remarkable habits in El Salvador?

  • Salvadoran women often pat each other on the right forearm or shoulder, instead of shaking hands. Men shake hands with other men and women, although they mostly wait for the woman to extend her hand.
  • Meals shared together with big families included extended family is a part of the culture.
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