Curtido, or tart cabbage slaw (El Salvador)

El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America, located on the Pacific side. It is a former colony of Spain. Most of the five million inhabitants are mestizos and slightly over half are Catholic, but there are also large Protestant and non-religious minorities. Despite its small size, El Salvador has over 300 rivers and two mountain ranges. Its economy is faring quite well, even though the country has faced many natural catastrophes, mostly earthquakes but also volcano eruptions, rainstorms and droughts. A few years ago it abandoned its former currency colón and now uses the U.S. dollar. Tourism in El Salvador is rapidly growing.

The most famous Salvadoran dish must be pupusas, corn tortillas usually filled with meat, refried beans or cheese, which are very popular in some parts of the U.S., though virtually unheard of in most of Europe. Another traditional dish is fried yuca (cassava/manioc). Both are often served with curtido, a pickled cabbage slaw. Soups are very popular and seafood and chicken are common ingredients. Alguashte is a seasoning made of ground pepitas (pumpkin seeds).

A typical Salvadoran breakfast consists of fried plantains with cream. Desserts tend to be custards, puddings or very rich, sweet cakes, sometimes just fruit. There is also a sweet version of quesadillas. Horchata is a popular drink, but unlike the rice-based Mexican horchata, the Salvadoran drink is made with morro seeds, which have a slightly licorice-like sweet taste.

I found several curtido recipes, which were quite similar, but with varying amounts of vinegar. Most of them had a lot of it so I used a full cup, but the result was so overwhelmingly vinegary I felt most people would probably like it better with just half of the amount.



1/2 small white cabbage
1 large or 2 small carrots
1 small onion
1/2 cup/1.2 dl white, cider or pineapple vinegar (or more; see notes)
1/2 cup/1.2 dl water
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp brown sugar
0.5 tsp cayenne pepper

Grate the cabbage, chop the onion and shred the carrots. Bring some water to boil and pour it over the cabbage and onion. Let stand for a few minutes and then drain. Add all the other ingredients and more water if needed, so that it just covered. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours before serving as a side dish.

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