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A fuller flowering of Salvadoran flavors

A wave of restaurants, including some in central L.A. and in the San Fernando Valley, is offering delicious regional dishes.

March 24, 2011|By Bill Esparza, Special to the Los Angeles Times

In addition to the pacaya, chipilin herb and loroco, the edible flower served in pupusas, there are the pito and mora flowers, and the national flower of El Salvador, the flor de izote, locally known as the spineless yucca — all part of the Salvadoran kitchen.

In Lake Balboa, another local Salvadoran enclave, Mercedes Rodriguez's Mis Raices, serves pitos con huevo (a dish that might make a Mexican teenager snicker), the red pito flower cooked with eggs. Amazingly, the pito tastes like a pungent sausage. Pito also comes in alguaishte, a traditional Salvadoran sauce made from ground squash seeds, similar to a home-style Mexican mole.

Rellenos are here too, such as the güisquil, what Salvadorans call the chayote: mixed with cheese, fried in an egg batter, topped with a tomato sauce and served alongside well-seasoned refried red beans and rice. Rodriguez isn't afraid of big flavors.

At $5.99, the fritada is a steal: pig heart, ears, cheeks, tongue and liver are blanched then sautéed in tomato and yerba buena (mint) and bell pepper, giving it a sweet herbal kiss.

And the flor de izote? "Friends always bring it to me from my hometown, Quezaltepeque, La Libertad," says Rodriguez.

It also grows wild in Pasadena and is a common garden plant there. In the summer, when an illicit trade in spineless yucca booms in the Salvadoran community around MacArthur Park, the white national flower of El Salvador will show up on the tables of home kitchens and in some tamales on the streets of Westlake. If you can't cop them in MacArthur Park, you could always try to grow your own — we hear the plants are available at IKEA.

El Santiagueño

LOCATION: 1939 S. San Pedro St., Los Angeles; (213) 745-8001

PRICES: Appetizers, $1.99 to $4.99; entrees, $5.99 to $14.99; pupusas, $1.75

DETAILS: Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Soft drinks, aguas frescas. Lot parking.

Mis Raices

LOCATION: 7539 Reseda Blvd., Reseda; (818) 708-1205

PRICES: Appetizers, $1.50 to $3.99; entrees, $5.50 to $8.50; pupusas, 99 cents on Tuesdays and Wednesdays

DETAILS: Open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Soft drinks, aguas frescas. Street parking.

Sonsonate Grill

LOCATION: 4350 S. Avalon Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 233-1333

PRICES: Appetizers, $2.50 to $7.95; entrees, $9.95 to $16.95; parrillada for two, $29, for four, $39; pupusas, $2.25 to $2.95

DETAILS: Open 9 a.m. to midnight daily. Soft drinks, aguas frescas, beer and wine. Lot parking.

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