My introduction to Salvadoran cooking was courtesy of Mirlena, who works in our building. Her family came from El Salvador, and she enjoys treating us to her pupusas with queso cheese and loroco, an edible flower that’s widely eaten in Central America. A few years ago, Mirlena and her daughters brought pupusas for the Herald Features department as a Christmas gift.
Mirlena is proud of her cooking, and she should be. Her pupusas are delicious.
In search of some Salvadoran home cooking like Mirlena’s, my colleague Sara Bruestle and I ventured down to where unincorporated southeast Everett meets Mill Creek to dine at Nuevo Amanecer Pupuseria (Nuevo Amanecer means “New Sunrise” in Spanish). It’s a rustic hole-in-the-wall, located, like everything else in the area, in a strip mall.
Inside, under the glare of fluorescent lights, are about seven tables — all occupied on our Tuesday-evening visit by folks seeking not posh restaurant surroundings but authentic, tasty Salvadoran food made to order.
Indecisive after studying the overhead menu for a bit, Sara and I opted for the easy way out and ordered a sort of taster tray of Salvadoran specialties: The plato guanaco or “lunch plate” ($20.99), a platter that included pupusas with your choice of filling, fried yucca, deep fried ripe plantain, a tamale, refried beans and a large dallop of crema, Latin sour cream.
Pupusas are pillowy thick corn tortillas stuffed with a savory filling and served with curtido, a spicy cabbage slaw that the Pupuseria serves in a chilled container, and sauces. Nuevo Amanecer Pupuseria gives you three sauces to garnish your food — a red one, a green one and an orange one. All three added pops of color and flavor to the six-shades-of-brown food on the platter.
We really enjoyed the pupusas and the earthy-tasting tamale, and Sara thought the fried plantain would have made a nice dessert with some melted dark chocolate to dip it in. As for the fried yucca? We didn’t say “yuck.” Sara couldn’t decide whether it tasted like turnip or potato. My take is that it didn’t really taste like much of anything, aside from cooking oil.
We also ordered a pork burrito stuffed with black beans, rice, and green and red bell peppers ($8.99). “It’s a fat log of food,” Sara said as she sized up the thick-as-a-baby’s-thigh burrito. The stuff inside that log was well-seasoned and delicious — and a meal in itself. The leftovers were destined for the lunchroom microwave.
Also on offer are a variety of Salvadoran and Mexican dishes. A man at the next table was tucking into a bowl of caldo de gallina, a lovely-looking chicken soup ($14). You can also find tacos, burritos and the aforementioned tamales (they are called “tamals” in El Salvador).
The place also serves breakfast every day from 9 a.m. to noon. Huevos revueltos ($10), huevos estrellados (eggs with beans, crema and fried plantain, $9) and baleada, a traditional Honduran dish composed of mashed fried red beans and a variety of yummy stuff inside a folded thick flour tortilla (half order is $5; full $9).
Herald reporter Caleb Hutton recommended the place to Sara.
“As a newcomer, I’ve have been trying to explore parts of the county I don’t know,” Caleb said. “Mill Creek has been a total blind spot to me. And my girlfriend and I had been looking for a good place serving pupusas, ever since Ade’s in Everett went into hibernation.”
On a recent lunch visit, Caleb ordered half a baleada with egg, sour cream and avocado for lunch, along with a chicken tamale. Girlfriend Kate Fujimoto ordered three pupusas: one spinach, one bean and one cheese.
“We drained half a large Mason jar of the spicy cabbage,” he said. “Usually, I steer toward meat at Latin American places, because that tends to be the specialty. But the pupusas here offer some great vegetarian options.”
“We’ll be back,” Caleb said.
It bears repeating that this is not a spit-and-polish restaurant. The platter and burrito came out with no dinner plates. I asked for a knife to cut up the burrito to share, and a cook handed me an unwashed paring knife that had been used to slice avocado in the open kitchen. The local Action McNews blared on a TV in the corner. Fine dining for date night? Nope.
But for authentic Salvadoran home cooking and a welcome alternative to Americanized Mexican grub, it’s as if Mirlena had opened a restaurant to share her amazing cooking with the entire community, not just us lucky few at The Daily Herald.
If you go
What: Nuevo Amanecer Pupuseria
Where: 1519 132nd St. SE, Everett
When: 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; closed Sunday