I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Rogers, Arkansas.
Greetings from Rogers, Arkansas
N 36° 19.0368’ W 094° 7.6424’ Elev. 1355 ft.
I ordered a large marañon, the aguas frescas made from cashew apple that I first discovered in Provo, Utah. They have two sizes here, medium and large ($2.00). When I ordered it, I joked to the waitress that since refills were free I should probably just order the medium ($1.00). But I never do that because I don’t mind spending the extra buck for a couple of reasons: first, it sometimes takes awhile to get the refill and, second, I don’t mind spending the money for such a taste treat.
But then the waitress said they charge a buck for the refill. Whatever. That’s still pretty fair, although I’ve never been to a Latino restaurant that charged for refills of aguas frescas. And they didn’t used to here. When I got the bill, however, I discovered she’d charged me the full $2 for the refill. “Oh,” she said, “the refills on the mediums are a dollar.” I know it’s only a dollar but, well, it’s the principal. Waaaaaah! Moving on.
On this visit I decided to try something a little different, so I ordered the Mojarra Ranchera (Ranch Style Red Snapper). I’m not sure what I was expecting. On the menu they had a picture of the Mojarra Frita (Fried Red Snapper), which was a whole deep-fried fish. I kind of assumed the fish in the Mojarra Ranchera would be a filet. I thought this, of course, because I’m about as bright as a 20-watt bulb in an unplugged lamp.
It turned out the Mojarra Ranchera ($9.50) was a whole deep-fried fish as well, smothered in sautéed tomatoes, onions and jalapeño peppers, and served with rice and beans, some shredded iceberg lettuce, and three pupusas (thick corn tortillas). Oh, and a fork.
The skin on the fish was really crispy and quite hard. So hard, in fact, that it was nearly impossible to get the fork through it. Thankfully the fish was scored and I was able to get the skin between the tines of the fork and kind of twist it and break it open. Once I got inside the flesh was really tasty, nice and moist. The combination of the skin and meat were quite a juxtaposition texture-wise.
It turned out to be kind of a chore to eat, often having to sift through all the little bones. Occasionally the meat would pull away from the rib cage intact, but not very often. In all it was very good, and the tomato, onion and jalapeño complimented it nicely. But like I said, it was somewhat of a chore. It most assuredly would’ve been a lot easier to eat with chopsticks.
As I ate I kept thinking that there wasn’t a lot of meat there. But much to my surprise I soon found myself stuffed. Throughout the meal that poor fish kept staring at me with a deep-fried frown on its face. It made me feel sort of guilty. Being a white guy from a processed-food nation I’m not used to my food staring back at me like that.
I’m pretty sure it wasn’t actually red snapper. Judging by the price, as well as the shape of its head and the size and placement of its deep-fried eyes, I suspect it was probably tilapia. It’s pretty common for restaurants to advertise snapper and substitute tilapia.
I also got a couple of tamales (one pork, one chicken, $1.25 each) to go. Central American tamales are simply the best. They’re wrapped in banana leaf rather than corn husks. As a result the masa (dough) is very moist and has a light, fluffy, almost cake-like texture. The filling in them is chunks of meat and cubes of yuca (cassava). Additionally, they serve them with curtido (a slaw of sliced cabbage, grated carrots and sliced jalapeño peppers) and salsa roja (red salsa) on the side. The silky texture of the tamal along with the crunch of the cabbage is truly a great combination.
And unlike the new just-to-piss-me-off aquas frescas refill policy, there was still no charge for the curtido y salsa.
And so we roll.
Pupuseria Salvadoreña #2, 1601 South 8th St., Rogers, Arkansas
Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.