¡Yo quiero pupusas!
Asi Es Mi Tierra1020 S. Wells Ave.
Reno, NV 89502
Asi Es Mi Tierra can be roughly translated as “My homeland is like this,” but perhaps the most comprehensive understanding of the Salvadoran idiom comes from sitting down in front of a hot plate of pupusas and digging in.
I have never been to El Salvador, but can imagine that this restaurant is a close taste to the true flavor of the tiny Central American country.
As you walk in the door, your eyes fix on dual giant-screen televisions, on which mostly soccer matches are watched. The ceiling is laced with party lights, and the mirrors on the wall create a sense of open space. With the DJ booth tucked in the corner, I can just imagine this place bouncing off the Richter scale on a lively Saturday night.
There is little or no English spoken in this comfy, yet festive, restaurant, but don’t let that stand in the way of some excellent food. A few years of kitchen Spanish have taught me how to converse with most Latin American folks, and the people at Asi Es Mi Tierra are very friendly and patient. Our server, Juan, helped us break through the language barrier along with educating us a little about the traditions and culture of El Salvador.
Pupusas are the national dish of El Salvador, made from two corn, or masa, tortillas that form a pita-like pocket that’s stuffed with combinations of soft, usually quesillo cheese, refried beans, pork, tomatoes, red and green peppers and warmed on a comal, or Mayan pottery griddle. Chicharrón (pork skin) and meat and tomatoes cooked down to a velvety spread is one of the favorite fillings, but rebueltas, meaning basically “everything but the kitchen sink,” is always the most popular blend. It’s just like a hot, gooey grilled-cheese sandwich in a tortilla. The cheese oozes out the sides and gets crispy on the griddle.
Juan was a good-natured guy and kept us laughing. We ordered nine pupusas to share, a steal at $1.89 each. They were filled with chicharrón and rebueltas con queso. The pupusas were served with a scoop of a vinegar-based coleslaw, made with cabbage, jalapeños and carrots, along with a mild tomato salsa. There was a much spicier sauce served at the table, but the mild salsa is what is traditionally served with pupusas.
Juan seemed delighted to see us enjoying so many servings of his favorite national dish. He told me a story about how in El Salvador, there are booths lined up in the streets with women making pupusas every day. He said that an average Salvadoran eats eight pupusas a day. I also ordered the empanadas de plátano, or banana fritters, for $3.85. Damn, were they good! Hot banana custard inside a crispy, fried dough.
I have been eating at some of the nicer restaurants in Reno for a while, but I was more impressed with the food at Asi Es Mi Tierra than almost anywhere else.
For those who want to move a little farther south on the palette than traditional Mexican, Asi Es Mi Tierra is a refreshing alternative.