I am crazy about pupusas – it’s no secret! What could be better than a pocket of carbs filled with cheese and other fillings? Nothing, I tell you. When we heard that the pupusas were on point at Brianna’s Restaurant (4911 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60625) we knew we had to visit! Brianna’s advertises itself as having Salvadoran and a Guatemalan cuisine, with a small selection of Mexican dishes.
I got two pupusas, one with the emblematic Salvadorean loroco flower and one with Guatemalan chipilin ($2.25 each). I could hear the “pat-pat” of pupusas being made fresh and griddled after I placed my order, which is always a sign that you are going to get something good! As predicted, the pupusas came out hot and fresh with melty cheese fillings and a vinegary slaw. The loroco flowers were tasty and subtle and the chipilin leaves, which I had never tried, before tasted like a herby spinach. If Now 2 ‘small” pupusas was really enough to make me feel super full, but if you are well and truly ready to stuff yourself consider a “pupusa loca” a large pupusa with five ingredients. Fortunately, the vinegary slaw helps all those carbs go down.
M went the more substantial route with a main dish. He was torn between several dishes. He ended up going with the hilachas, shredded beef with potatoes simmered in Guatemalan creole sauce, served with a side of rice ($10.95). The runner up was another Guatemalan dish – Pulique – beef rib stew with potatoes and squash ($10.95). The hilacha, the Guatemalan take on ropa vieja, was tasty with a pungent tomato sauce, more akin to Sunday gravy than a salsa.
As a side, M also sampled his first atole, a warm, sweet corn drink. I went with the cooler passion fruit juice. If we were less full we would have sampled the Guatemalan bread pudding, which sounded delicious. The restaurant itself was very simple, but the service was friendly and pleasant. But most importantly, everything we had heard about the pupusas was true. Brianna’s makes a mean pupusa, and the price is right (less than $2.50) for each pupusa, making one of the tastiest and cheapest meals around.
While Dia Los Muertos is perhaps best known in the USA through its Mexican-style celebrations, it is a holiday celebrated throughout Latin America. I was doing a little research on other countries’ traditional foods, and came across Fiambre, a veritable Guatemalan smorgasbord served in honor of Dia de los Muertos/Dia de Todos Santos (All Saints Day). Fiambre is a chopped salad akin to a giant antipasti dish, which may include up to 50 ingredients , and weight up to 20 pounds. Of course there are as many variations as families, but a common denominator is a base of sliced meat, cold cuts, cheeses and sausages followed by veggies (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and more), topped with eggs, grated cheese, radishes and dressing. A signature touch is pacaya palm blossoms, a traditional Guatemalan ingredient.
El Fiambre -by Keneth Cruz
Allegedly, the origins of fiambre are rooted in the tradition of bringing ancestors their favorite foods in honor of Dia de Todos Santos. Gradually, according to legend, all of the dishes of food brought to the the graves of the dead were combined to create one large dish of fiambre. Fiambre, unlike many other celebratory dishes, is truly only served on this day, and requires a lot of preparation. The fiambre components have to be sliced and chopped and the assembled fiambre is marinated over night, and is served chilled. Given the amount of ingredients (see below for a sampling), it looks incredibly time-consuming. These two recipes from Growing Up Bilingual and The Latin Kitchen give you a good idea on the preparation of fiambre.
Fiambre ingredients – by guillermogg
3025 W Diversey Ave
We were in the Logan Square neighborhood for a concert, and we felt like picking up a sweet treat for later, despite the fact that we already had a pound of carnitas (more on that later). We had heard good things about the Guatelinda Bakery, so we decided to give it a try. Guatelinda Bakery is a corner store in the truest sense of the word, situated directly on the corner, and containing both a baked goods counter and staples like milk and eggs. Along one wall there was a cooler of said staples as well as a well-chosen selection of Guatemalan canned goods and sodas.
There is a chalkboard advertising the daily specials, including savories like cornbread and fresh chile rellenos ($3). In the bakery case, as well as along the back wall, are an assortment of about a dozen kinds of pastries, scones, pan dulce, and cookies. We ordered a mini pound cake ($1.50) and a Cartucha ($1.50), a cream-filled fried pastry. The pound cake was buttery and delicious, with a hint of lemon. The cartucha was kind of like an eclair on steroids, but a bit flakier than you might expect, and M the whipped cream-lover was a fan. As we paid, the nice lady manning the counter asked us if we lived nearby, if we did we should come back sometime to try the specials. Too bad we don’t (but you can be sure we’ll visit again, anyway)!