Monday, September 26, 2005

Pupusería San Sivar - Costa Mesa

Pupusas. If there's one thing that's been floating around in the food blogosphere that I couldn't wait to get my grubby hands on, it's pupusas. Everyone, it seems, has written effusively about pupusas. Pam of Daily Gluttony wrote about it. Kirk of mmm-yoso! wrote about it. But as drool-inducing as these posts were, they didn't get me closer to any pupusas since Pam's in L.A., and Kirk's in San Diego.

I had no pupusa leads in O.C.

That is, not until now.

Enter Professor Salt. Gilligan's Island may have their Professor, but I didn't need a radio made from a coconut; I needed pupusas.

Chowhound's resident "Ph.D. in Food Appreciation" and published O.C. food sage, Professor Salt wrote up a brilliant essay on his favorite pupusas, found at a-hole-in-the-strip-mall called Pupusería San Sivar in lovely Costa Mesa.

And this definitely is as divey as hole-in-the-walls get. My kind of place!

Walking into the door, I got the sense that I entered into a battered cantina in the middle of nowhere Central America; something out of that movie "Motorcycle Diaries" or "El Mariachi". Bright yellow table cloths clashed with the peeling deep blue wallpaint. Chotskys dangle from the ceilings and worn posters promoting El Salvador tourism plastered the walls. Other than a narrow one-way mirror that looked out from the kitchen, there was no sign that anyone was minding the store. The joint was empty.

Then, a young gentleman finally came out, dressed in jeans and t-shirt. He handed me a menu as I took a seat. I pointed to two items on the pupusa side of the menu; one cheese filled ($1.90) and another with beans and pork ($2.00).

"How big were these pupusas," I inquired.

The young man curled his thumbs and forefingers into "C's" and brought them together.

"Ahh, muy bien," I nodded in approval.

Then, feeling pretty confident that I could squeeze out a few more words from my high school Spanish class, I said to him "Agua para beber, por favor." He smiled knowingly and took my order to the kitchen.

A few minutes later he returned with a chilled squeeze bottle of piquant hot sauce and a black plastic mortar filled with "curtido", which I learned from Professor Salt's pupusa-primer as vinegared cabbage laced with chili flakes. This slaw is meant to be eaten as roughage with the pupusas.

As soon as the pupusas were served, I used the metal tongs to mound some curtido on top of it. The crisp, slightly burnt masa dough had a pleasant subtle corn taste; smoother in texture than grits, but not as sweet as polenta. The Professor was right though; these puppies must be eaten immediately to appreciate the full potential of crisp crust and hot filling.

The hot cheese pupusa reminded me of a quesadilla, but more substantial. The oozing and rich molten goodness went perfectly with the tangy, crisp and cool curtido.

The bean and pork pupusa was even better. Sandwiched between the grilled masa dough was a thin layer refried beans and shredded pork, with a slight chili heat and aroma of cumin. Like a flattened, gridled tamal, this was my favorite out of the two.

"¡Las pupusas son muy sabrosas!"

Pupusería San Sivar
(949) 650-2952
1940 Harbor Blvd
Costa Mesa, CA 92627


At 7:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aaaah - Finally, Elmo get's a Pupusa of his very own! Pretty good, huh? I was waiting all weekend for your post! Pupusas are now on my "have to get them every so often" list.

At 7:38 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Pretty DAMN good! Hours after those pupusas, I wanted more! My palate was still craving them. It's just a lovely combination of flavors...feels like comfort food with a kick!

At 9:28 PM, Blogger Daily Gluttony said...

Yay! Looks like everyone's losing their pupusa virginity this summer!

It's true what you said in your comment about just keep craving them. Like I always say about addictive food--they must put crack in 'em.

At 9:37 PM, Blogger Professor Salt said...

Lovely post, and excellent photos.

San Sivar is relatively clean for a hole in the wall. You wanna see a dump? Try Pupuseria Cuscatlan 412 N. State College Anaheim, next to a car wash. Good pupupsas but totally nasty bathroom, which generally doesn't bug me that much, but here - yiii.

At 9:12 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Yeah unfortunately, I doubt this place will do delivery for your late nights at the office....but I'm certain they are open on the weekends!


Pupusas are going to be my major addiction now. I'm glad my first time was at such a worthy place!

Prof. Salt,

Thanks again for the heads up on this place. I know I'm going to be a regular here.

BTW, feel free to use my post or photos when you decide to share your review with the rest of Chowhound. I'll piggy back my review to yours as a reply.

At 5:28 PM, Blogger e d b m said...

i have yet to try this. i'm sure i can find one in LA. any suggestions anyone?

At 2:40 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Check out Pam's blog...she had hers at a place called Atlacatl in L.A. Looked pretty damn good too!

At 8:44 PM, Blogger Christine D. said...

For a few weeks, i've been trying to remember a pupusas place i've been to about 4 years ago for a school project. what bugs me is that i didn't even order the pupusas!! After your post, i remembered the place, so here's a link to their website and perhaps someone could try it! (I hardly have the time to go out)

At 12:44 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Hey Christine,

Great tip! I'll need to check that out someday!

At 4:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wonderful pupusas in Grand Central Market

At 2:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading your comments, I decided to go check out the place myself and I was plesantly surprised at how authentic San Sivar really is. I would recommended it to anyone.

At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Should try El Salvador Cafe in Santa Ana! 733 S Main St
Santa Ana, CA 92701. Great pupusa and the bestest HORCHATA, not the regular mexican cinnamonly horchata. It has a nuttier taste to it.

At 2:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simply the best ive had, even my salvadorian wife says these are prob the best she's compared to the ones in el salvador. i loved the revueltas(mixed) and the queso y frijoles(cheese and Beans)..yummy! try it

At 5:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I need a curtido recipe. Does anyone know how to go about making this?

Please let me know, thank you.

At 1:32 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I just finished devouring my queso y frijol pupusas, and I have to say that they were the best I've ever had. My boyfriend is from El Salvador, and brought me what in his opinion were the best pupusas from LA one time, but these far surpassed his. I couldn't be more thrilled that such a great pupuseria is so close to my house.

At 8:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The food of this restaurant is delicious, but I prefer to eat "pupusas" in Salvador because they are masters cooking that, and also that's great becauase they prepare that with their own hands.


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