In addition to Carmen (pupusas) and Cecilia (desserts), on our gastronomy tour of Suchitoto, Luis from Sapito Tours also introduced me to Marcela in the central park who specialises in Atóles, and told me where to find Nuria later in the day for another snack, pastelitos, that is common in El Salvador.
An Atól is a warm drink that is made from milled toasted corn. The most basic Atól is essentially milled corn, water, cinnamon and milk with perhaps a bit of sugar, but you can spice things up in a variety of ways. For example, Cecilia’s Chilate is a type of Atól .
Marcela works out of a very small shop on the main plaza in Suchitoto and sells the normal Atól as well as two others that are very typical in El Salvador.
I first of all tried the savoury Atól Chuco (left in the image below), where chile, ground pumpkin seeds, black pepper and frijoles (beans) are added to the base Atól. It was spicy and salty, and there was no hint of a corn taste. What you could taste was the ground pumpkin seeds and the spicyness of the chile, and the frijoles down the bottom were a nice textural surprise at the end. It actually wasn’t too bad (though very strange) and I reckon it would be a good winter warmer.
I went back the next day to try a sweet Atól, Atól de Piñuela (right in the image above). This one was really thick – kind of applesauce consistency (they gave me a spoon to help). To the base Atól, you add piñuela (a plant that grows here that tastes a bit like a pineapple), dulce de panela (remember from the last blog post), cinnamon, peppercorns and cloves. This Atól had a very smokey, pineapple-y flavor and is probably the one I’d choose if I were to have these again.
The different Atóles were US 50 cents each. Even if you don’t like them, they are worth a try for this price!
About a block from where I was staying in the Hostel Casa Suchi (great place! Highly recommend it) is where Nuria sets up shop every afternoon to sell pastelitos de verduras and pupusas.
Given I’d made pupusas with Carmen, I was there for the pastelitos de verduras, which are essentially a corn and achiote (red food colouring that is often used in Central America and that comes from the crushed seeds of a plant) dough filled with vegetables and deep fried. This is then served with the ubiquitous Curtido (cabbage salad in vinegar) and tomato salsa.
These were very yummy and again, only US 50 cents for 4 plus the salad.
You can eat very, very cheaply in El Salvador! And no, I did not get sick at all. In fact, none of the food I’ve eaten this trip (and I’ve eaten a lot of street food) has made me sick. Don’t be frightened of street food!