El Salvador Food and Drink

El Salvador’s cuisine is influenced by both its pre-Colombian heritage and the Spanish conquest. The pupusa (tortilla) is a typical dish – hearty, basic and tasty. As with most Pacific-facing countries in the region, ceviche (raw marinated fish, often snapper) is a popular dish, and shellfish is common in coastal areas. Visitors can expect to come across grilled clams, lobster and crabs. Salvadorans love fresh fruit (bananas, pineapple, mango and papaya are common) and minutas (crushed ice with fruit syrup) and fresh coconuts are sold on street-food stands everywhere. A light breakfast might be fruit or huevos picados (scrambled eggs with vegetables), with típico salvadoreño (see below) for those with more of an appetite. Sopas (soups) and mariscadas (seafood chowders) are usually to be found somewhere on the menu.

In San Salvador, an abundance of cafes and restaurants can be found on Paseo General Escalon, in the Zona Rosa and in shopping malls like Metrocenter and Gran Vía. Cheaper eateries abound around Boulevard de los Héroes, and these are generally of a decent standard. International cuisines include Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, French and Argentinian. There are numerous fast-food chains and pupuserias (see below), together with authentic street food stands that can be great value.

Santa Ana (El Salvador’s second city) has great street food stands on Avenida Norte but also a relaxed pavement café culture that begets long lazy lunches. In smaller towns and cities, dining options are more limited and very basic off the beaten track.

Specialities

Pupusa (a fried sandwich of tortillas, filled with pork, cheese, refried beans or vegetables).
• Típico salvadoreño (standard Salvadoran breakfast comprising eggs, local cheese, refried beans, fried plantains and tortillas).
Casamiento (rice and black beans, often served for breakfast).
• Corn tortillas.
• Tamal de elote (cornflour batter with meat filling, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed).
Gallo en chicha (soup made from corns, rooster, and dulce de tapa).
• Sopa de pata (soup made from plantain, cow's feet, corn and tripe).

Things to know

If paying by credit card, beware of credit card skimming scams (where your card is cloned using a hidden machine). Try not to let your card out of your site. You may notice that waiting staff tend to be brusquely ordered around by Salvadorans dining out, but don’t join in this practice. If dining with locals, it pays to be as polite as possible as local dining etiquette is fairly formal. Wait for your host to say "Buen provecho!" before tucking in to your meal.

Tipping

10% in hotels and restaurants; 15% is appropriate for smaller bills. Service charge often included on bill. Tipping is not a long-standing tradition in El Salvador but wages are low, so do reward good service.

Regional drinks

• Café (coffee).
• Refrescos (natural fruit drinks).
• Kolachampan (sugar-cane flavoured soft drink).
• Tic tac and torito (strong alcoholic beverages made from distilled sugar cane).

Drinking age

18.

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