Salvadoran food at Bellflower takes center stage at Lo’roko – Press Telegram

Here are some things you should know about the delicious Salvadoran dish called pupusa: This stuffed pancake was made more than 2,000 years ago by the Pipil people of the region; the name in their language means “swollen,” which pupusas certainly are. (They look like pregnancy tortillas!)

The dish is so beloved in El Salvador that in 2005 the Legislative Assembly declared it the national dish and the second Sunday of November National Pupusa Day. In honor of the day, a 200-pound pupusa stuffed with 40 pounds of cheese and 40 pounds of chicharron was prepared at a local park. It was more than 3 meters in diameter and entered the Guinness World Records. Most recently, a pupusa with a diameter of over 4.5 meters was served for the holiday.

Since the ancients who created the pupusa believed that corn was a divine grain, it was considered sinful to cut the pupusa with a knife. The dish is eaten properly only by hand.

And although it is a Salvadoran creation, it has spread throughout Latin America. In Honduras, the local cheese called quesillo is used. In Costa Rica, it’s a mainstay of celebrations. The Mexican version is called a gordita. In Venezuela, the arepa. The British newspaper The Guardian named it the best street food in New York. And it’s never eaten without a side of sauerkraut called curtido—and plenty of hot sauce.

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A must-try Salvadoran restaurant

Here’s how the 10 different pupusas are served at Lo’roko Pupuseria & Grill, one of the best Salvadoran restaurants here in Southern California. It is a cheerful cafe, bright and sunny, with a team of young ladies who approach their work with full heart and remarkable smiles.

Lo’roko is located in one of the many mini-malls that define Bellflower, sharing the mall with a Dollar Tree, a liquor store, a barber shop and a handful of small restaurants. What makes Lo’roko stand out right from the start is its brightly colored red, yellow and aquamarine marquee, with the letters constructed to stand out from the background. Someone spent a little money on the marquee – and it gives you a great first impression.

The same goes for the interior, with its intricate multi-colored wooden flooring and intricate tiling. None of this is expected, as most of the Salvadoran restaurants in town are largely unadorned, save for the occasional airline. But there’s art on the walls at Lo’roko — and art on the plates, too.

The restaurant is open for breakfast every day of the week, serving big morning plates of cheese, beans, sour cream and Salvadoran tortillas that look more like pancakes than the Mexican tortillas we’re used to eating. These tortillas are substantial – you can’t eat too many. But after that, it’s hard to stop because they’re damn tasty.

So are the breakfasts, any of the egg dishes, most scrambled with sausage, shredded beef, ham, fried plantains, potatoes, green beans, or the eponymous herb “lorocco,” which tastes a bit like broccoli or Swiss chard. Show up before lunchtime, especially on a Sunday, and family groups are everywhere, breakfasting at the same time with gusto and not even a little nostalgia for the old country.

We have to get the pupusas

But as tempting as the snacks are—and they sure are—no meal at Lo’roko (or any other Salvadoran restaurant, for that matter) is complete without an order of the pupusas, which are filled with whatever number of ingredients, from the simplicity of beans and cheese, through spinach and cheese, pumpkin and cheese and lorocco and cheese. The pork chicharron is also pretty standard. As well as chicken and beef. Pupusa is a multi-flavored, multi-flavored dish – boosted by curtido and homemade salsa with serious bite.

Indeed, the stuffed things are a happy part of the food at Lo’roko. There are tamales filled with chicken, small beef pastries called pastelitos, empanadas filled with banana. And for that matter, the big plates also define the food – the fried mixed plate, a mixed grill done Salvadoran style; the grilled beef with shrimp (surf and turf!); the quintessential chicken stew called pollo guisado, and wonderful pollo a la plancha, with every bite of chicken melting in your mouth.

A large part of the menu also consists of soups, seven of which, including warm chicken soup (with rice and beans) and cream of seafood soup. Jamaica – hibiscus – creates a joyful drink. And although I’m leaning toward flan for dessert, fried plantains with cream and cinnamon will do just fine. Served, as I said, with a smile.

Meryl Schindler is a Los Angeles-based freelance food critic. Email [email protected]

Lo’roko Pupuseria & Grill

  • rating: 2.5 stars
  • address: 10227 Rosecrans Ave., Bellflower
  • Information: 562-461-1260; orderlorokopupuseriaandgrill.com
  • Kitchen: Salvadoran food as authentic as any in town, catering to a large expat crowd hungry for a taste of the homeland — especially the signature pupusas.
  • When: Breakfast, lunch and dinner, every day
  • details: Soft drinks; without reservations
  • Prices: About $15 per person
  • In the menu: 11 Antojitos ($3.75-$11.99), 10 Pupusa ($3.65-$4.25), 9 Snacks ($12.50-$13.50), 8 Soups ($9.99-$19.25), 18 “ authentic” plates ($13.99-$19.99)
  • Credit cards: MC, V
  • What the stars mean: 4 (World class! Worth a trip from anywhere!), 3 (Most excellent, even outstanding. Worth a trip from anywhere in Southern California.), 2 (Good place to eat. Worth a trip from anywhere in the neighborhood.) 1 (If you’re hungry and it’s nearby, but you’re not stuck in traffic.) 0 (Honestly, it’s not worth writing about.)
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