Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mary Restaurant

Firing the conchas on the plancha.

The first time I told my friend from Argentina that I liked conchas, he started laughing hysterically. Evidently in Argentina, conchas mean something completely different than the sugar-topped pan dulce they are in Mexico.

So when Paola asked me if I would like to eat conchas here in El Salvador, I wasn't quite sure what she was asking me. Did she know of my fondness for Mexican conchas from this blog? Or somehow know about my fondness of Argentinian conchas? I was afraid to ask!

Ingredients for the pupusas.

Turns out here in El Salvador, conchas are little, tiny shellfish - mollusk type creatures. For awhile, I though she meant conch (which I am fond of) but she described it as small, which eliminated the conch.

High above San Salvador and up a windy, switchback road is the restaurant known as Mary. Famous for their pupusas of cheese and frijoles refritos, they are also known for the special way they prepare conchas. In garlic and butter and cooked on top of a plancha.

A plateful of conchas with ajo and butter.

As the plateful (the first of multiples) landed on our table, I knew exactly what these little conchas were. In Hawaii, we call them 'Opihi and eat them raw. Delicious and salty little mollusks that cling to surf rocks and must be harvested by hand. I did a little harvesting when I lived in Honolulu - it's difficult but rewarding work.

And these conchas were delicious. Paola is wildly enthusiastic about the conchas and now we know why. Flavored with garlic and butter, they're placed on a hot plancha where they cook until they boil off. The texture is tender and chewy with just a hint of salt and the rich buttery goodness of garlic. Unbelievable. We consumed a good four platters of conchas.

Oooh, la la!

Next up, were the pupusas. Balls of maseca with refried beans and cheese rolled out flat and cooked on the plancha. Tasty and boiling hot. Top with some spicy pickled vegetables and salsa rojo and you've got a messy but tasty meal. Guzzle down some beer (or in my case Coke Zero) and you're really living up high above San Salvador.


< Pickled veggies and salsa rojo.

Camilo, Diego and Paola discuss the finer points of Conchas.

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