Holy Mole! El Salvadoreno is one of my new favorite places! You know how when you start dating someone and they are all you think about, randomly in the middle of the day, when you're driving home, in the shower(!!!) in your dreams.....that's how it is with El Salvadoreno. Thankfully, the Food Pimp is not a jealous man, as some food pimps can be - you know, it's ugly but it's true. Some food pimps beat their food hos with eggplants, plantains, pig's feet, sugar cane, even grapvines. So you have to watch out, all you food ho's out there. Not everyone can be as fortunate as me to get a benevolent food pimp.
Back to the topic of my food lust - El Salvadoreno.
El Salvadoreno. The name just rolls off the tongue - cow tongue that is!
So we went to El Salvadoreno exactly a week ago from now. It's on Imperial Avenue in Logan Heights near the intersection of 28th, right off the 5. Unfortunately, I didn't take my aging camera, so we have pictures on the Food Pimp's phone, but I have to see if I can email them and get them on here.
Anyway, we were both anxious to get there. It was like going to Disneyworld! We got in, and there were a few tables of people, not much. So we perused the menu, and you know how long it takes me to order. I had to make a decision when the waitress got to the table. I did one of those, "you order first" jobs. So the FP got the lengua. We ordered a cheese and jalapeno pupusa, and an "everthing" pupusa. I got the plantain stuffed with beef, and a pork tamale.
Where to start? I guess the pupusas. They were good. Not as good as last time. I think the everything one had too much going on, lots of cheese, pork, and other stuff. The jalapeno and cheese one was definitely better, but both were a little greasy. Don't get me wrong, they were still good and if you've never had a pupusa you would most certainly eat the shit out of them. The trick is to not eat all the slaw when they bring it to the table - which is difficult because it's really good - and put some hot sauce and slaw on the pupusa. That makes it really special.
Then my plantain filled with ground beef. This was something else. It was a fairly large plantain as far as plantains go. So it was grande, not chiquita. So it was split down the middle and beef and beans and crema. The plantain was kind of on the unripe side, so it wasn't very sweet, but the filling with the crema was so sweet that it was fine. This was a rich starchy meaty creamy dish. I can see how some people would not go for it, but I liked it. The FP was not thrilled with it.
Let's talk about tamales baby, let's talk about you and me, all the good ones, all the bad ones.....
Okay. (Deep Breath) I need to organize my thoughts...let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. When you read you begin with abc, when you sing you begin with do,re,mi. Sorry.
Tamales. Tamales...ooh, tamales. When I first encountered tamales, it was at culinary school. That was ages ago in the bustling urban landscape of Thibodaux, LA.
So we had this one professor who the FP lovingly nicknamed Chef BigPoop (not to her face). She was a big older mean lady who was not so good at teaching. She seemed to have this self esteem problem/inferiority complex. She had this attitude like she knew more than us. But wasn't she supposed to? Wasn't she supposed to embrace our youthful culinary innocence and school us in the ways of the chef knife?
Anyway, I was pretty bright back then, not like now. I got good grades. I admit I'm a nerd. One time I got like a 100% on a test, but she marked this one question wrong so I didn't get the extra credit. I was sure it was right. So I looked it up in the book and in our notes. So she had told us one thing and the book had told us another thing. So she marked it wrong. I took her the book and showed her the answer. She said, "but you still got a hundred". But I said, "But my answer was right and you marked it wrong, it's the principle." She had wacked principles.
Anyway, she taught this southwestern cuisine culinary class. She would basically give us each 3 recipes to complete by the end of class. These were, you know, those recipes with 30 ingredients. So we would do them, and 3/4 of the dishes were shit, really. I remember doing tamales. They were heavy, dry, boring.
So through the years, I've always been excited to try tamales because I love corn. I've had good ones. They seem like a whole lot of work for little reward. At the Mango House (RIP) in New Orleans my boss would do these chicken tamales with this mole negro. Boy that was pretty good. But it was mostly due to the delicious mole. It was so rich and yummy.
Getting back to present day... tamales at El Salvadoreno. I got the pork tamale. It was wrapped in banana leaf. So I unwrapped it. There was no sauce. I took a bite. OMG OMG OMG OMG... I'm sorry, I'm having a taste memory orgasm. I know, it's kind of personal, but we're all intimate acquaintences here, right?
Where was I? (wipes herself) This tamale was like no tamale I've ever had before and maybe would never have again. It's like that first shot of heroin - so I hear. It was like eating a corn cloud with tender piggy meat nestled inside. It was corny, and it was, oh, so light. And fresh tasting. The striking thing about these great latin american restaurants is the freshness of the masa dough that just tastes and smells so good. They should have potpourri or hanging car air fresheners with the scent of "fresh pressed tortilla". You have to try this tamale. As soon as you get a chance go to Imperial Avenue near 28th street and order a tamale, and other stuff too. And tell them the Food Ho sent you. You'll get nothing, and they will probably look at you strange, and if they understand you they'll ask, "who's the Food Ho." But later on they will know. Oh will they know. Some for better, some for worse. El Salvadoreno, for best.
And then the Food Pimp got his stewed tongue. It had the rice and beans. That was good, but the beans were not quite as good as the first time. But the star of the plate was really the stew anyway. This tomatoey, meaty stew was just impeccable. I think this is the best tongue (cow tongue that is) I have ever put in my mouth. It was diced and it was tender and it was fresh.
Now my experience with tongue growing up was not too great. My mom would cook it whole in peanut sauce, and it would look like a big tongue. That didn't really bother me, but it was chewy. She simply didn't braise it long enough. Which was really a shame because her peanut sauce was really good.
So since then I've had tongue cooked very nicely. Usually it's cooked to shreds for tacos, and it has the dark meaty flavor.
But this stew. I've never encountered such tongue. It was fresh. Sometimes tongue is too strong and you eat it anyway wondering how it will sit in your stomach a few hours later. But this tongue was rich and meaty, but not overly strong like old tongue. It was tender, but not falling apart. It was the perfect doneness. I don't know if I rated El Salvadoreno before, but I am giving them \/\/\/\/ 8 chopsticks! I mean, they have not given me anything bad or okay. The worst thing I've eaten there has been very good! And I don't hand out praise that easily, even though it might seem so.
You should also try this tongue dish. Even if you've never had tongue - go ahead - put that tuna salad sandwich back in the fridge and go to El Salvadoreno. I don't care if you're far away. Book a plane ticket and head over to sunny San Diego. When you get here, hop in a taxi and ask them to take you to El Salvadoreno on Imperial Avenue in Logan Heights. Or you can call me if you want, and I'll pick you up. We can share a wonderful sensual tasterbating tonguegasm.