NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – To raise money for their church, La Luz del Mundo in Jackson Heights, Irma Vargas and her mother Maria Ramirez set up a flat-top grill outside. There they made and sold pupusas, a classic dish from their native El Salvador.
“Like the taco is for Mexicans, the pupusa is for Salvadorians,” Irma said.
The pupusas—Maria’s recipe from childhood—drew long lines on weekends.
“The clients, they said, ‘Can we have this during the weekdays? Open up your own restaurant!’ That’s why we decided to open,” Irma said.
At Ricas Pupusas & Mas, Irma and her mother are eager to share their pupusas, a beloved piece of their culture, with their adoptive home.
Luckily, they have extra help. Irma’s husband Daniel and four daughters Amy, Abby, Ashbel, and Arashel all pitch in. Arashel handles the corn-flour dough, Amy takes charge of the pupusas, Abby helps with kitchen tasks (and, her mother says, keeps the peace), Ashbel serves the customers, and Daniel makes the hot sauce and delivers the orders.
“I’m proud of them,” Irma said. “They really help a lot.”
While the family agrees that they’ve always been united, building a business together has brought the three generations even closer.
“We’ve learned how to communicate with each other better,” Abby said.
Bonding happens over the pupusa itself, as Maria passes down her techniques and her native language to her granddaughters.
The pupusa begins with a corn flour dough, which is stuffed with any of a variety of fillings, including cheese and lorocco, an edible flower imported from El Salvador. The dough is flattened into a disc and dropped onto the grill. When it puffs up, it’s ready.
“People in El Salvador, they eat it by hand like a slice of pizza,” Amy said.
At the restaurant, Irma is fulfilling her dream.
“She always wanted to have a business,” Daniel said. “I’m proud of her that she made that decision.”
Ricas Pupusas & Mas
47-55 47th Street
Woodside, NY 11377
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