Papusas are the one Honduran (kind of) food that I know I will continue to eat after I leave Honduras. They are pretty plain, which is probably why I like them so much. The first time I decided I would make them, Maria stood in the kitchen watching me, without saying a word. After about 40 minutes of me trying to get the darn cheese into the ball of masa like the recipe said, she told me I was doing it all wrong. I gladly accepted her help. She took over and 20 minutes later we all had stacks of yummy papusas on our plates. Since hers always come out much prettier than mine, she agreed to model how to make them for me.
To make papusas you will need:
-Maseca (or any other brand of corn flour)
-Quesillo (a soft cheese very popular here)
-Bottled Water (or tap if you don’t live in Central America)
-1/2 Cabbage (I like purple because it adds nice color)
-1/2 Carrot (yes – the carrots are abnormally large here)
-4-5 Fresh Limes
-Salt & Pepper
Start with about 4 cups of Maseca in your bowl, and about 3 cups of water. Add some salt if you would like.
Add the water a little bit at a time, and mix it all together with your hands. You can use a spoon, but it won’t turn out as well.
Make sure to keep adding more water until the dough is not too dry and not too wet, as Maria tells me. Whatever that means.
Finally when your dough comes together in a big ball, you are done.
Set your masa (dough) aside and start to make your salad.
First, chop your cabbage very thinly. It tastes much better that way.
Then grate your carrot. I guess you could chop that as well, but I am lazy and grating is much faster.
Roughly chop your cilantro. I picked mine out of our garden. Cilantro is the only one of my plants that I can keep alive.
Mix your cabbage, carrot, and cilantro together. Squeeze fresh lime juice over the top and season with salt and pepper.
Now come back to your masa, and pull off a piece about the size of a lime. Start to flatten it with your fingers. This is where Maria’s secret weapon comes in. Cut 2 round circles out of a clean plastic grocery bag. (do they still have those in the US?) Put your flattened piece of dough on the piece of plastic. Then spin the plastic piece around on the counter with one hand, while you pat the masa flat with your other hand. It is impressive to watch Maria do it. It is humorous to watch me do it.
Repeat with another hunk of masa.
You want both of your circles to be pretty thin, and about the same size, because you will be stacking them on top of each other.
Tear off small chunks of the quesillo and start covering one of your masa circles. If you can’t find quesillo, try another mild, soft white cheese. I have heard of people making papusas with mozzarella, but it probably doesn’t taste nearly as good.
You could also add chicharron or beans at this point. Sometimes I like to add a little bit of chicken. Usually we just use quesillo.
Now stack your plain masa circle on top of the one with quesillo on it.
Pinch the edges shut.
Heat a little bit of oil in a pan of some sort over medium heat, then add your papusa. I like to use our mini cast iron skillets. The papusas fit perfectly in them and I think they look so cute.
When one side gets slightly browned, flip it over and cook the other side. You might have to add a little more oil when you flip it so that the other side browns nicely. Cook until both sides of your papusas are lightly browned and crispy.
Top your papusas with the cabbage salad, and serve with extra lime wedges. And make sure you cook a lot of these suckers because they are addicting!