No. 52: Huarache de Carnitas at El Paraiso

A meal at El Paraiso feels as if you're a guest in someone's home. The same staff is always there and always hard at work in this Salvadorian kitchen no matter what time of day, forming pupusas, shredding cabbage for curtido and pouring steaming bowls of caldo. Hardly a lick of English is spoken in the joint, and with the TV providing the background chatter you suddenly forget you're in South Orange County.

Pupusas are mandatory, as are most other Salvadorean staples here, but that doesn't mean you should overlook an item because of it's Mexican origin. At El Paraiso, Mexico City's shandal-shaped sprawl of masa 'n' stuff known as the huarache receives proper treatment with a few Salvadorean touches. 
The foundation of the huarache varies from place to place–some come tortilla-thin and others nearly sope-thick. El Paraiso's corn crust is fairly soft, nearly as wide as the plate and flattened sheet-thin. A paste of pinto beans is smeared across the entirety with a buffet of toppings to anchor the dish. Lettuce, cucumber and radish provide crunch; small hunks of tomato lend a burst of cool freshness. 

Both help to lighten up a dollop of yogurt-dense, pink-hued Salvadorian crema and a heavy sprinkle of milky Monterey Jack. The savory richness of tender braised pork and salty globs of fat is matched by an acidic, watery red hot sauce that goes great with the pupusas, too.
Ordering Mexican at a Salvadorean spot could have been a miss, but this huarache comes through.

The list so far:

53. Chivito at Puerto Madero
54. Brizio Combo at Brizio Chicago Style Pan Pizza
55. French Toast at Starling Diner
56. The $7 Three-Item Combo Plates at Yu's Garden
57. Gudeg at Indo Ranch
58. Salted Caramel Gelato at N'Ice Cream
59. Live Amaebi at Sushi Imari
60. Any Burrito from Dos Chinos
61. Olive Tree's Iftar
62. Sonoran Dog at Rubalcava's
63. Sizzling Hiramasa Sashimi at The Catch
64. Yakisoba Dog from Dogzilla
65. Crispy Pork Belly from Lucca Cafe
66. French Toast with Bacon at Flurries Shaved Snow Bar
67. The Venetian Roll at Sushi at The Venetian Gentleman's Club
68. Okaki Asparagus at Hamamori
69. The “Fried Egg” at Eat Chow
70. Nam Kao Tod at Vientiane Restaurant
71. Chicken Ramen at Jinya Ramen Bar
72. Pig Snout at Tacos & Carnitas Sahuayo
73. Kale and Mushroom Flatbread at 320 Main
74. Congee at King Lobster Palace
75. Fish and Chips at Slapfish
76. Fries at Playground

77. Carne en Su Jugo at La Cocina de Mi Abuelita
78. S'mores at Ti Amo Biscotti & More
79. Broken Rice at Dat Thanh
80. Bulgogi and Potato Pizza at Chicken & Pizza Love Letter
81. Braised Bacon at Break of Dawn
82. Cake Donut at Cream Pan
83. Bistec de Pollo at Mercado El Rey
84. The Rhino at Rancho a Go Go
85. Cabernet Brownies at Blackmarket Bakery
86. Cookie Monster at Lola Ice Cream and Deli
87. Polenta Board at CUCINA Enoteca
88. Falafel Taco at Taco Asylum
89. Wagon-Wheel Bread at THE RANCH Restaurant
90. Toothpick Tacos at Mexico Supermarket
91. Hoppin' John at Memphis at the Santora
92. Free Beans and Chips at Taqueria Zamora
93. Pig in a Blanket Waffle with Gringo Bandito at Cafe Calacas
94. “Pork Hash” at Huong Giang
95. Sweet Chili Chicken Quesadilla At Kogi
96. Licuados at Mil Jugos
97. Hawaiian Ahi Poke at California Fish Grill
98. Takoyaki at Takoyaki Tanota
99. Fiesta Noodles at Jollibee
100. Chilaquiles Verdes Con Huevos Estrellados at La Tablita California

Click here to view our 100 Favorite Dishes of 2010!
Click here to view our 100 Favorite Dishes of 2011!

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