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 seem to be going in really loopy circles lately. I guess that’s just how my mind works. What’s weird though is I’ve also been eating at many of the same restaurants I’ve written about previously. Or so it seems. Today I’m back at Pupuseria Salvadoreña #2.
I’ve hit this place a few times over the last couple of years. In the past I always had Chile Rellenos because they stuffed them with meat. Evidently I’ve not been here for much longer than I knew. The meat-stuffed rellenos are history, 86ed from the menu. That’s bad for me. But business has picked up, which is good for them.
Due to the absence of my usual fare I decided to put my fate in the hands of my teenaged server. What would you get, I asked? “I really like this,” she said, pointing to the Caldo de Pata ($7.70). I thought that would be good; after all, “Shank Soup” was written in English underneath, and I like shank. So I ordered it. “I hope you like it,” she said.
Now, it’s understood that the shank is the shin or lower leg portion of an animal’s leg, right? It’s analogous to a pork hock. Right?
Well, not here. Not at all. Here it turned out to be a cut from a little lower on the leg: a Freakin’ Hoof! Gadzooks!!
I don’t want to criticize what other cultures might find delicious, but a freakin’ cow foot is not really the tastiest, much less meatiest, part of the animal. Indeed, the “meat” is a bunch of fatty, cartilage-ish, semi-gelatinous gunk wrapped in and around a hell of a lot of bone. Moreover, the “meat” doesn’t even have the courtesy of being the consistency of stewed chicharrón (essentially pork fat, which I like). In short, it’s largely flavorless and not worth messing with.
The rest of the Caldo was damn good, however. Indeed, it was muy rico y muy sabroso (very rich and very tasty). I liked it very, very much. I just wish there’d had been some edible form of meat in it, like in a Caldo de Res (beef soup).
The soup was served with the obligatory lime quarter, and fresh chopped onion and cilantro. I also got a large Agua Fresca de Melon (cantaloupe fruit juice) for $2.
As I was waiting for my server to hoof it out with my hoof soup I kept staring at a handwritten sign on the wall. The sign was written in Spanish; Si quiere tamales o pollo oreneados aga su orden con tiempo para Thanksgiving. The part I could translate with my remarkably bad Spanish reminded people to order tamales in time for Thanksgiving.
I knew Pupuseria Salvadoreña didn’t previously offer tamales. Now they’re on the menu — pork or chicken — for $1.25 each! So I ordered three to go. They came with a bag of pico de gallo (latino cole slaw) and a little thangy of salsa.
While people may be familiar with tamales, there are actually two very distinct versions of these latin delights: Northern and Southern. In the North they wrap the tamal — It’s called a tamal, damn it; tamales is plural — in corn husk. These tend to be dry, dense and somewhat grainy in texture.
In the South they wrap them in banana leaf. I don’t know if the recipe for the masa (dough) is markedly different. The end result, however, is like day and night. The banana-wrapped ones are cake-like, light, fluffy and, to me, a bit sweeter tasting.
While I’ve had a few tamales I didn’t care for (mostly because they were dry, stingily stuffed, and little more than masa tubes) I’ve never had a bad “Southern” tamal. Does that mean that Salvadoreños (or any other Central Americans) make better tamales than Northern Mexicanos? Hell yes! But hey, they work with what they’ve got.
After all was said and done at Pupuseria Salvadoreña #2 I was fat and happy but disappointed. The soup part of the Caldo de Pata was great but the Pie (Spanish for “foot”) sucked. To make it worse, all the latinos were ordering some chicken deal that came with a bowl of chicken-and-rice soup, a side of rice, pupusas, and half a grilled chicken. F#@K ME!!!!!!!!!
More proof: It’s tough being a white guy with few smarts, armed with even less discernible knowledge of other cultures. Pero trato. Está todo bien.
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.