by Joy Salyers
There was so much to share from our visit to Manny’s Universal Cafe in Greensboro that we had to make two blog posts about it! Last week Evan Hatch told you about the owners, Manny and Margarita, and the amazing food we ate (and ate, and ate). This week, we have a special treat for you — a pupusa-making lesson!
Evan, you see, is the consummate fieldworker. Even while we were eating, he was asking Margarita about her life in New York, where she learned to cook, what the most important thing is to making a good pupusa . . .
(I should pause here to say that, if you are not familiar with pupusas, you should stop right now and go find one. Just open a new browser tab, search for your town’s name plus “pupusa,” and go get one. I’ll wait. I can describe them as a kind of cornmeal dough folded around a filling of either cheese and beans, or pork, or some combination and then patted flat and fried, served with a fermented cabbage salad called curtido, but that really does absolutely nothing to convey how fantastic good pupusas are.)
Anyway, instead of trying to describe her pupusa-making technique, Margarita grabbed some practice dough (discarded after the lesson) and began making one. If you don’t think making food qualifies as a performing art, you have never watched someone cook.
One of the many things I love about Evan is that he is game for anything. When Margarita asked him if he wanted to learn how to make a pupusa, he didn’t hesitate. (Not even when I pulled the video camera out!) Margarita told him to wash his hands and gave him a lesson on the spot.
She passed along a few tips – making sure your hands are wet, which part of your palm to use, how to massage the dough to get the correct shape without making it too thin.
The dough for pupusas is easy to make and inexpensive. While ratios vary by recipe, try this for starters.
3 cups masa harina
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 teaspoon salt, optional
Mix together in a large bowl, stirring well. (Adjust consistency if needed by adding more water or masa harina by the teaspoon.) Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let sit 10 to 15 minutes. Then you’re ready to practice!
For advanced tips, here’s one more video for you. In this one, Margarita explains how the water helps the dough glide over your hands instead of sticking, and how to keep from pushing into the dough so hard that it tears. She also assures us all that, “Everything has a solution,” and describes the pupusa booths of El Salvador, where cooks toss the finished pupusas down the line.