Learn more about El Salvador in International Living Postcards–your daily escap
The smell of freshly roasted coffee beans wafted through the air as I made my way to El Salvador’s famous Sunday food festival which takes place in the small town of Juayúa.
Dozens of food vendors set up in the town square, along one side of the plaza, with hundreds of people queuing at their open-sided tents. The pleasant smells and wood smoke filled the air.
Hundreds more escaped to the large dining tent, enjoying the cuisine and live music. A band played at one end and a mariachi singer roamed the crowd with a microphone. In the rest of the square, vendors sold everything from snow cones to CDs, as children enjoyed pony rides and tours on the caterpillar-like tram cars.
Sunday visitors to Juayúa were enjoying a day trip away from the smog and traffic of San Salvador, enjoying a beautiful ride through the countryside, and sampling some of El Salvador’s best cuisine.
I appeared to be the only foreigner on the scene, and I did my best to hold my own with the Salvadorans when it came to tasting as many of the treats around the square as possible. Starting with a large platter of chorizo sausage with refried beans, potato salad, and tomatoes ($1.50), I moved on to various mouthwatering papusas (thick corn tortillas stuffed with cheese, pork, refried beans, etc.), tamales (steam-cooked corn meal dough that can be eaten with or without a filling of meat, cheese and sliced chilies), and asados (cuts of meat cooked on an open fire or grill), as the afternoon progressed.
I topped it all off with an order of three riguas de coco, a cooked-in-the-leaf mixture of corn meal and coconut, which is then fried on the grill and topped with a sweet coconut sauce. At 50 cents, it was the best value on the square–unless you count the rich, Salvadoran coffee beans that I bought for just $1.80 per pound.
It’s worth coming to the food festival in Juayúa, but the town itself turned out to be quite a find. During the week when the crowds go home, you can enjoy strolling the peaceful, cobbled streets while soaking up the colonial architecture. In many ways, it reminded me of Vilcabamba, Ecuador, except that Juayúa is a bit larger and more completely restored. It was definitely a place where I could feel at home as a resident.