El Salvador Food and Drink
El Salvador’s cuisine is influenced by both its pre-Colombian heritage and the Spanish conquest. The pupusa (stuffed tortilla) is the classic Salvadoran street dish – hearty, basic and tasty. As with most Pacific-facing countries in the region, ceviche (raw marinated fish) is a popular dish, and shellfish, including grilled clams, lobster and crabs, is common in coastal areas.
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 eggs, with típicosalvadoreño (see below) for a full blowout.
There are numerous fast-food chains, together with authentic street food stands and market foodstalls, which can be great value.
Pupusa: A fried tortilla, filled with pork, cheese, refried beans or vegetables.
Típicosalvadoreño: Standard Salvadoran breakfast comprising eggs, local cheese, refried beans, fried plantains and tortillas.
Casamiento: Rice and black beans, often served for breakfast.
Pacalla: Palm-flowers fried and coated in breadcrumbs, a side dish served with tomato sauce.
Tamal de elote: Cornflour batter with meat filling, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.
Gallo en chicha: Soup made from corns, rooster and cane sugar.
Sopa de pata: Soup made from plantain, cow's feet, corn and tripe.
Mariscada: Seafood chowder that’s rich and sometimes spicy.
Curtido: Pickled cabbage and other shredded vegetables, a bit like sauerkraut.
Huevospicados: Scrambled eggs with diced vegetables, typical breakfast dish.
Café: El Salvadoran coffee is good and strong, usually drunk sweet and black.
Refrescos: Natural fruit drinks, often sold in street stalls.
Kolachampan: Sugarcane flavoured soft drink.
Tic tac and torito: Strong alcoholic spirit made from distilled sugar cane.
Chaparro: Moonshine spirit, illegal to serve in bars but widely available, including a fruit or honey-flavoured version called chaparrocurado.
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. If dining with locals, wait for your host to say ‘buen provecho’ before tucking in.
Tipping is not a long-standing tradition in El Salvador, but wages are low, so do reward good service. 10% is appropriate.