For Those About To Nosh

The road between Sonsonate and Ahuachapan is known as the Ruta de Flores here in El Salvador. It squirms its way into the refreshing mountain air before dropping back down into the steamy valley that marks the end of the road from Sonsonate. The first real town of size along that road, Juayua (way-oo-ah), is home to an amazing weekly food festival.  As mentioned, this is done on a weekly basis; Saturday and Sunday, just in case you are in the neighborhood.

We spent our 18th anniversary here, going north, enjoying the food and the atmosphere. The town is so accustomed to the food fest that even the stray dogs have a “been there, done that” attitude. They actually turned their noses up to certain things, including meat offerings! Toss them a bone or a bit of scrap and they give you a look of disgust if it does not suit their discriminating tastes.

Come For The Food, Stay For The Scenery

Just touting the weekly festival would make this place a one-trick-pony. Juayua has a bit more going for it, including a pleasant climate, a pretty church on the square, cobblestone streets, stunning volcano vistas, and a clean swimming hole fed by a gushing waterfall. Juayua… you little devil!

The celebration of gourmet food is on the pretty little square with about a dozen individual vendors grilling up some thoughtfully prepared dishes from El Salvador’s finest restaurants. Upon perusing the victuals on offering, one is aware of the fact that this goes a bit beyond the average plate of meat, rice and slaw; in fact you would be hard-pressed to find even a papusa on offer here.

Each dish is on display before you buy it and each is a work of art. Garnish is placed upon the food rather than just simply dashed with it, along with that drizzle-type thing on the plate that seems to accompany dishes that are “built” by chefs. For $6 a plate your wallet and your taste buds will thank you.

Get Here Now

We visited Juayua twice and the food fest came as a complete surprise the first time. Our dish that first time was pelibuey, which is a breed of sheep that does not grow wool, making it ideal for warmer climates. It was pan-seared and covered in a reduction. The flavor was quite elegant! Along with the meat, which was locally raised (wink-wink, localvores) were braised vegetables and spiced blackened scallions with citrus and sultana glaze. Did we mention all the plates are only $6?

Coming north we returned to the town for all the charms on offer, along with a plate of grilled frog legs and some coconut riguas for dessert this time. Again, the dishes are rather fancy; we are talking early autumn caramelized apple chutney type sauces along with wilted greens and rice cooked with edible flower and par boiled in water infused with saffron and jicama root. Even the styrofoam plates had an air of refinement to them. Good old El Salvador!

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