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Fri December 30, 2011
Okay, friends, get your GPS navigators set for 1714 East Northern Street in Wichita. At the end of your trip you will be at Usuluteco, a fantastic Salvadoran restaurant located just off Hydraulic, south of Pawnee. Salvadoran food is delicious, a recognizable cousin to Mexican cuisine, but with its own distinct character—a bit more subtle, without the same chili-garlic-tomato-cilantro bang of Mexican food, but perfect in simplicity.
I found Usuluteco a couple of years ago, while pining for my old terrifying, fascinating, and wonderful Mission neighborhood in San Francisco. In my block alone, you could buy nearly anything—from hanging burnished Chinese ducks, to black tar hash or bedazzled statues of Jesus, or taro roots the size of a crocodile. We had a couple of Salvadoran restaurants there, too, and that’s where I discovered THE PUPUSA.
Salvadoran pupusas are comfort food of the best kind—hand-patted tortillas that are crispy, fried, cheesy, chewy pillows of corn. Usuluteco’s are perfect: moist inside and crisp outside, and oozing with cheese, pork, beans, or all three. They are served with a lightly pickled cabbage salad and two sauces, one mildly tangy and the other spicy hot. The cheese pupusas are accented with an herb called loroco, which gives them a unique, woodsy note that makes them really special.
All of the food at Usuluteco is great. I love the deeply fried pork chunks called “chicharrón” and the creamy corn tamales. They make stellar fruit drinks with pureed pineapple, tamarind or strawberry that give you a fabulous sugar rush and help cut the richness of the food. The family who owns the shop is always there, helpful and sweet and justifiably proud of what they serve.