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Colorado Springs chef opens a pupuseria serving foods of El Salvador

January 10, 2018 Updated: January 12, 2018 at 9:59 pm
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Monse Hines of Monse's Pupusarea posed for a portrait at the restaurant on Tuesday January 2, 2018. They will be serving the national dish of El Salvador - pupusas starting on Friday January 12 in Colorado Springs. The restaurant will also be serving other El Salvadoran dishes. (Photo by Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette).

It all started at the farmers market in 2011. Monse Hines from Chalchuapa, El Salvador, started selling her homemade pupusas at markets that summer.

Pupusas, the national dish of her country, are like corn quesadillas stuffed with fillings such as beans, cheese, zucchini and sweet corn, then topped with curtido, a fermented cabbage salad.

Word spread rapidly about these healthy, hand-held delights.

Demand for the pupusas and curtido quickly grew, and she landed several wholesale accounts, including with Whole Foods Market and Natural Grocers. She would make 1,000 to 5,000 pupusas a week, depending on the availability of the fresh ingredients on which she insists.

Now, nearly seven years later, she is opening Monse's Pupuseria, an eatery that showcases her popular offerings.

A soft opening is scheduled 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

What makes pupusas so special? For starters, the ingredients are simple and healthy.

"Pupusas are eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner," Hines said. "They are high in protein, vitamins and are a good source of healthy fiber. And the curtido has healthy, natural probiotics because it's a fermented salad. It's delicious and good for digestion health."

Her pupusas are even more nutritious because she's a stickler for finding the freshest ingredients from local farmers and producers.

Monse Hines of Monse's Pupusarea is serving the national dish of El Salvador - pupusas in Colorado Springs starting January 12. The restaurant will also be serving other El Salvadoran dishes. (Photo by Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette).  

When she started her business, she used high-quality olive oil. But as she was connecting with other local vendors and businesses, she found a Lamar man who grows and presses his own natural sunflower oil.

"I switched from olive oil to his sunflower oil and love that I can offer a healthier option while supporting local (producers), too," she said.

She buys chiles and vegetables from Pueblo farmers such as Carl Musso and Shane Milberger.

"It supports small businesses and keeps their products in our community," she said.

Her husband, Tim, loves Monse's Salvadoran food but also admires her philosophy.

"Monse is what makes her food special," he said. "I admire the work she does to keep recipes authentic and handmade. It's more than food; it's an experience. She's literally sharing her culture through her food."

The pupuseria menu will have traditional pupusa flavors, such as bean and cheese; zucchini, sweet corn and cheese; and Pueblo chiles and cheese.

Several pupusa options will be vegan.

Eventually, she'll introduce more traditional dishes from her home country.

Those include pastelitos, Salvadoran empanadas filled with vegetables. They're served with curtido and a red sauce, typically eaten as an afternoon snack or appetizer.

Also on the menu will be chilaquiles Salvadoreños, a Salvadoran dish very similar to chiles rellenos, baked and covered in a red sauce.

A future menu will feature escabeche, a pickled vegetarian dish made with cauliflower, carrots, green beans and onion, commonly served during holidays in El Salvador.

Saturdays, the eatery will have Salvadoran breakfast items, including pupusas, breakfast tacos, breakfast tostadas and refried beans. A traditional American breakfast menu will feature gluten-free pancakes, waffles and egg skillets, too.

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