Tamales de Elote + Tamales Fritos

Tamales de elote (corn tamales) are often eaten for breakfast, (or any time really), in El Salvador, as well as in other countries in Central America. They are especially good if you re-heat them the next day by frying them, (which turns them into “tamales fritos” or fried tamales.)

Here is the recipe I use, adapted from the one found at Whats4Eats.com. If you want it completely authentic – (i.e. you want to use lard and fresh corn) – go check out their recipe. My recipe is easier and can be made year round because it uses canned corn – but I changed a few other things as well, and they’re delicious like this.

Makes 1 dozen

What you need:

Corn husks (for wrapping) – 12
Butter, unsalted, softened – 1/2 cup
Baking powder – 2 teaspoons
Masa harina (MASECA) – 2 cups
Salt – 1 and 1/2 teaspoons
Whole milk or cream – 1 cup (warm)
Corn (whole kernel, sweet, no salt added) – 1 and 3/4 cups (drained) = about one 15.25 oz. can
Sugar – 3 tablespoons


1. Put corn husks in a large bowl of warm water to soak.

2. Put butter, baking powder, corn and sugar in a blender or food processor and mix until combined. (Add a couple tablespoons of milk if blender blades won’t turn. This can be any kind of milk, including skim.)

3. In a large bowl, mix together (with your hands), the masa harina (MASECA), salt and warm milk. Knead until completely combined.

4. Mix the masa little by little into the blender mixture, using the blender to combine it. If the mixture is now too thick for your blender to handle, mix all into a bowl by hand. Squeeze the mixture through your hands until completely combined.

5. Drain the corn husks and shake dry, (it’s fine if they’re still moist.) You will either need to work fast so the husks don’t dry out again, or you can leave them in water and shake dry one-by-one as you use them.

6. Lay out a husk and add about 1/4 cup dough to the center. Fold in each side to cover the dough. Then fold up the bottom of the husk. Finally fold down the pointed part of the husk and insert it into the bottom. Repeat with the rest of the dough. (I go the extra step of wrapping my tamales in aluminum foil to prevent them from opening, which is easier than tying with string, which some people do.)

7. Steam the tamales in a steamer pot for 30-45 minutes. (If you don’t have a steamer pot, you can places balls of foil on the bottom of the pot and then put a metal pie plate on top of the foil. Make sure water doesn’t come above the plate. Over low heat, stack tamales on top of the plate and cover the pot. You may need to add water halfway through the cooking time if your pot cooks dry.)

8. Remove tamales and let cool. Serve warm, or refrigerate. To re-heat, unwrap tamal from corn husk and place on a comal or in a frying pan with a little oil. Cook on both sides until browned – now you have a tamal frito!


When I peeked into the ice cream freezer at the Latino Market, I saw amongst the usual popsicles and choco-bananas, something new.

“What’s that in the plastic bag?” I asked Carlos.
“Charamusca,” he said.

At 50 cents each, I decided to bring one home and give it a try. “Charamusca” in Mexico is a twisted caramel candy – but in El Salvador “Charamusca” is what they call a type of frozen treat. They come in various flavors, (the one I bought seemed to be coconut milk), but they’re frozen in plastic baggies.

Carlos showed me how to eat it: You simply bite a corner of the plastic off with your teeth, and then work it out through the hole while sucking on it.

These would be easy to make with kids over the summer: Just pour juice or a homemade fruit smoothie into plastic baggies, tie closed, and freeze. (I recommend eating them outdoors. They get sticky!)

While trying to find out more about “charamuscas”, I stumbled upon this odd music video. Say what you want about Salvadorans, but they know how to have fun.



Escabeche (Es-ka-vay-chay) is one of my favorite recipes for many reasons. For years my husband talked about this little old vecina named “Lupita” from back in El Salvador who passed away a long time ago. She was best friends with Suegra and was like a second mother to my husband. Well, it was Lupita who used to make Escabeche for my husband and apparently, Suegra has never been able to replicate it to my husband’s liking.

One day I decided to give it a try and when my husband tasted it he said, “That’s it! This is just like Lupita’s!” (I’ve never seen him so excited about vegetables.) And so, I like to make this because it makes my husband happy, (y Suegra un poquita celosa.)

Escabeche a la Lupita


1 small head of cauliflower – washed and broken into bite-size pieces
1 medium onion – sliced into half rings (I like red onions for the color, but any kind is fine.)
3-4 cups long green beans (fresh or frozen)
3-4 large carrots – washed, peeled and sliced into bite-size circles
2-3 tablespoons fresh garlic (minced)
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
a few tablespoons of oil (I use canola)
2 crushed bay leaves
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
salt and pepper to taste


1. Heat the tablespoons of oil in a large pan. Add the carrot and garlic, stir for few minutes.

2. Add the onion, cauliflower and green beans. Stir for a few minutes.

3. Add the cup of water to the pan of vegetables. Also add the crushed bay leaves, oregano, apple cider vinegar, (and sugar if using.)

4. Cover and lower heat. Allow to cook for a few more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator and serve cold the next day. It’s good both ways, (it’s actually better the second day because the vegetables become more “pickled”.)

* Note: If you look “Escabeche” up on the internet, you will find that it refers to a dish of marinated fish. Obviously, this recipe has no fish, and my husband insists that to him, “Escabeche” is a marinated vegetable dish only. The definition may be different depending on country and region.


The first time I tasted arepas, I was sitting on the plastic-covered sofa of a Colombian woman who, though I didn’t know it, would later become a good friend, and more recently, the madrina of my youngest son.

Like many things my friend gave me in those early days, I had no idea what I was eating – neither the name of it, or what it was made of. One time I asked her what was in a delicious meat and rice dish she served me. She told me pig’s feet, and that’s how I learned not to ask so many questions.

It was only this past year that I remembered my love for arepas and decided to make them myself. If you can track down a bag of the special corn meal, the rest is easy. Made from simple ingredients including water, salt, and cheese, and cooked in butter – these are instant comfort food whether you were raised eating them as a child or not. I decided that the flavor is reminiscent of grilled cheese sandwiches, and maybe that’s why I love them so much.

There are different varieties of arepas and just as many different ways to eat them, but here is mine.



*2 cups Masarepa (pre-cooked yellow corn meal/harina de maíz amarilla precocida)
*3 cups warm water
*1 pinch of salt
*1 cup of cheese (I use shredded mozzarella, but you can use a more authentic Latin American cheese)
*3 tablespoons of butter (for frying)


Combine the first 3 ingredients in a bowl. Let sit for 2 minutes until consistency thickens. Add cheese and mix until combined. Shape into patties and fry in butter over medium heat until browned on both sides. Serve.

Lunch Envy

I’m in a little competition with the wives of my husband’s co-workers … except nobody knows it but me.

His co-workers from Mexico like to give my husband, the only Salvadoran among them, a hard time. The ribbing is out of affection, but sometimes my husband, (who they’ve nicknamed “Pupusa”), tells me the stories and I feel an instinctive need to help him look good the next day.

My husband says a lot of the silliness and teasing happens at lunch time. First they made fun of him because his banana is always smaller than their bananas, (and yes, while they are talking about fruit, they’re also implying what you think they are.) … I offered to send a plantain in my husband’s lunch box, but he declined.

Then his co-workers noted that he eats rice almost every day, so when my husband tried to grow a beard and mustache, they called him “Fu Manchu” because it made him look more Asian with his ojos chinos. (He later shaved, but he always ends up doing that.)

None of this bothers my husband, who comes from a family of people that like to “joke hard” as he says. The only thing he has mentioned that bothers me, is that the other guys bring such good food for lunch all the time. They bring seafood, beef, chicken, homemade salsa, tortillas, frijoles, caldos … always something different, always an entire meal worthy of la última cena.

I really can’t compete with the other wives. We can’t afford to buy the ingredients to make such varied banquets within the same week, (his co-workers’s families live together and share expenses as well as a dinner table.)

Nevertheless, each week I try to make something new and worthy of envy. Last night it was “Arroz a la Tumbada“, a regional dish from the co-workers home of Veracruz, Mexico. Take that, co-workers-wives-who-don’t- know-me-very-well-and-have-no-idea-a-random-gringa-is-jealous-of-you.

Salpicón de Res

Salvadoran Salpicon de Res

Salpicón de Res

* 1 lb. beef – (can be a cheap cut like chunks of stew meat or steak, not important.)
* 1/2 red onion
* 1/3 cup olive or canola oil
* 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
* 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
* Salt and pepper to taste
* 2 large tomatoes, diced
* 1/2 red onion, minced
* 1 medium green pepper or Poblano pepper, minced
* optional: diced avocado
* optional: If you like it picante – fresh minced chiles of your choice and/or hot sauce


1. In a pot of salted water, add the beef and 1/2 an onion. Bring to boil, then cover and reduce heat. Cook until cooked through, (this doesn’t take very long if you’re using stew meat or beef that has already been cut into pieces.) Drain and remove the meat to a plate, (discard onion.) Chop meat into tiny pieces by hand, or use a food processor for a finer texture.

2. In a bowl, combine oil, vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper. Add vegetables and then meat. Combine.

3. Serve at room temperature with warm corn tortillas.

Adapted from: Whats4eats

Sopa de Pollo

It’s summertime, but it doesn’t matter. This week I got sick anyway. It started as a sore throat and then moved into my chest. All I wanted was for someone to take care of me, but when you’re the Mamá, you have to take care of yourself.

(Someone suggested I ask Suegra to take care of me. Muy chistoso. While I was sick she was making Sopa de Pescado for herself, and I was just thankful that my nose was partially stuffed up.)

I decided it was time to make Sopa de Pollo. I’ve tried a few different recipes but my favorite is the one below. This recipe is from the Bolivian grandmother of my nephew. She’s of no direct relation to me, but I met her a handful of times, and one of those times I tried her Sopa de Pollo and begged for the recipe, which she graciously shared.

I say that she “graciously shared”, because some women are not so gracious. At the party of a friend of a friend, (who knows how I even got invited, since I didn’t know the hosts personally), I was given a styrofoam plate filled with food upon arrival, as is expected at all Latino-hosted parties. Well, the chicken was absolutely delicious. I can’t remember all these years later what was so fantastic about it, but I found my way to the kitchen to compliment the woman who had made the food. She accepted my compliment with a big smile. When I asked for the recipe though, the smile disappeared from her face and she shook her head. Um, okay. Awkward!

Ni modo, this soup is way better.

Monica’s Sopa de Pollo

1 onion, peeled and quartered
3 cloves of garlic, halved
3-4 stalks of celery, leaves included
1-2 laurel (bay) leaves
1 whole turnip, washed (a few radishes works fine, too)
2 carrots peeled
salt and pepper to taste
6-8 pieces of chicken (or 1 whole chicken)
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups of rice
2-3 potatoes (peeled and diced into cubes)
1 cup frozen peas
1 envelope Sazón Goya (Coriander and Annatto variety – package may say “Culantro y Achiote”)

Cover all the first 6 ingredients with about 8-10 cups of hot water and let it get to a boil. When this broth begins to boil, add the chicken, with the skin on. Add chicken broth and 1 envelope of “Sazón Goya” to the original broth.

Note: When I made it this time, I didn’t have Sazón Goya on hand. I just mixed in about 1 teaspoon Goya Adobo, 1 tablespoon achiote molido, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon coriander powder. It tasted the same in the end and the recipe is very forgiving.

Let the soup begin to boil and then reduce the heat. Let it cook until chicken is separating from the bones. Pass the whole thing through a sieve into another pot. Discard the vegetables, (I eat the carrots), but take all the chicken pieces and rinse them in warm water. Remove the skin and discard. Break the meat in smaller pieces and discard the bones. Set aside.

Note #2: My husband and Suegra prefer that I leave the meat on the bones but I prefer to do it as described above. There are few noises in this world that I hate more than the sound of chupando los huesos. *shiver*

Let the sieved broth start boiling again and then add the rice; let it all boil on low heat for about 12 minutes (until rice is almost cooked). Add the potatoes. Let it begin to boil again and add the chicken back to the soup. Add frozen peas. Add salt and pepper to taste and let the soup boil for about 5 more minutes or until potatoes are cooked. If the broth evaporated considerably, you can add more water or more chicken broth to it. Serve.

(I eat this with crushed Ritz crackers on top.)