Fried yuca and pork belly are a specialty at the Pupusa on Wheels food truck in Medford. Photos of Sarah Lemon
The shredded squash is part of the pupusa toppings at the Popusas Michoacanas food truck in Medford. Photos of Sarah Lemon
Flautas are topped with fresh lettuce, onion, tomato and avocado at Popusas Michoacanas food truck in Medford. Photos of Sarah Lemon
Gorditas are stuffed with chorizo and potatoes (pictured) or chili beef at the Popusas Michoacanas food truck in Medford. Photos of Sarah Lemon
Habanero salsa is made fresh at Popusas Michoacanas food truck in Medford. Photos of Sarah Lemon
The pupusa combo comes with fried plantains, coleslaw, and rice and beans at the Pupusa on Wheels food truck in Medford. Photos of Sarah Lemon
Pupusas are a cornmeal cake stuffed with a variety of ingredients, including chicken (pictured), at the Pupusa on Wheels food truck in Medford. Photos of Sarah Lemon
Taco trucks were the pioneers of street food in southern Oregon.
Even though other genres have accelerated the food truck scene, it’s fair to say that about a third of Jackson County’s roughly 150 mobile food units specialize in tacos, burritos, tortas and other Latin fare. By this calculation, it would take a year of Tuesday pilgrimages to try all the street tacos in the area.
Much more favorable ratings suggest a lesser-known Central American staple. Pupusas are the prerogative of Salvadoran and Honduran cooks. And two mobile units I’ve frequented in the past two months serve this intimate, filling, yet still portable alternative to tacos.
Thicker than a tortilla, a pupusa is a cake or flatbread made from cornmeal or rice flour usually stuffed with cheese, beans, squash, or meat. El Salvador’s national dish, pupusas are considered an indigenous food and have likely been prepared for over 2,000 years, according to food historians.
In Medford, pupusas and their kissing cousins, Mexican gorditas, headline Popusas Michoancanas in the Panaderia Clarita parking lot on Court Street. The trailer keeps longer hours – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. – than many other locally mobile units, but only operates Wednesday through Friday.
The small menu, in addition to pupusas and gorditas, offers flautas, tostadas, quesadillas and crispy tacos. Since each was priced at $5 or less, my partner and I decided to try four of the six dishes, asking for chicken in our flautas (five for $5) and tostada ($3.50), a squash-filled pupusa ($3.50) and a potato chorizo and gordita ($3.50).
The Panaderia car park has a few benches and a picnic table under a retractable awning for customers. Although no other customers waited ahead of us, a few cars pulled up and asked for seemingly pre-made orders. Popusas Michoacanas, we learned later, has an online ordering platform at orderpopusasmichoacanas.com. Or call 541-840-5980.
Fresh lettuce, red onion, tomato and avocado were piled on top of the tostada and flautas. I dug into the latter, expecting the juicy produce to compromise their crunch and was surprised that the flautas were barely warm, lacked an oily shine and had apparently been fried some time before we had our ordered. An accompanying habanero salsa, however, brightened up the dish.
Hot and fresh, pupusa and gordita are nestled in the same take-out container. Peeling off a sheet of foil from the gordita, I noticed that the spicy chorizo offset with the bland potato nestled in the tender corn cake is so much more appealing to my palate than a burrito with breakfast.
Cooling the chorizo burn, pupusa summer squash is authentically Salvadoran, where the first pupusas were vegetarian. Indeed, I can’t be the only one who wishes more Latin restaurants would offer meatless options other than beans or cheese.
Squash and spinach pupusas keep company at Pupusas on Wheels with a recipe based on the Salvadoran “loroco” flower. I sadly missed the chance to try this floral garnish after misreading the menu and mistaking beef, chicken, or shrimp as my only choices.
In fact, Pupusas on Wheels’ namesake dish ranges from El Salvador’s beloved chicharron to a Hawaiian version with ham, pineapple, onion, and cheese. Fried plantains and Salvadoran beans and rice, known as “casamiento,” come with one, two, or three pupusas for $5.50, $9, and $12.50, respectively. Two pupusas – one for me and my partner – left room to share another dish.
As he lobbied for “chicken fries” topped with homemade cheese, guacamole and chipotle, I longed for fried pastelitos, similar to empanadas stuffed with ground beef or chicken. But the fried yuca and pork belly ($11) came across as a slightly healthier option, thanks to the fresh cucumber, tomato and Salvadoran “curtido” coleslaw.
The turquoise truck at Dazey’s-Hubbards Crater Lake Highway parking lot is busy enough that customers receive a remote-controlled beep to announce their order is ready. My partner and I walked for a good 20 minutes before collecting our heavy takeout boxes of steamy and tasty contents.
The tangy coleslaw and distinctive burn of the habanero salsa sparked our interest in the otherwise simple chicken and cheese flavors of pupusas. A slightly sweet counterpoint, the plantains added sweeter textures to the combo plate.
The fried yuca and pork belly, on the other hand, were textural delights – fried crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside. While the starchy root cubes were flourier than the best fries, some pieces were a little oversized, offering too much flour and not enough crunch. The juicy pork belly was rich enough to need a smooth, thin tomato salsa. Generous slices of tomato and fresh cucumber also cleared the palate.
Interesting without being thirst-quenching, “atol” is a Salvadorian hot drink made from pineapple. The sweet, slightly sour brew had the body of a smoothie served at the temperature of a latte. Infused with warming spices, it soothed sore throats but didn’t quell the salsa fire.
Too full—and out of time—to try the “budin,” a Salvadoran bread pudding with banana-vanilla ice cream, my partner and I vowed to return. Although Pupusas on Wheels has a website, pupusasonwheels.square.site, online ordering appears to be disabled. Dial 541-973-5542. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Treat mom to freshly brewed treats, locally brewed kombucha, and single-origin coffee.
These edibles are among the select products for Mother’s Day at Medford’s Rogue Wear. The clothing, accessories and home decor boutique is hosting a local event from 4-8 p.m. today in its parking lot, 307 N. Bartlett St.
Delish Bakery, Moxie Brew Kombucha and Playhouse Coffee Roasting join producers of artisan soaps, jewelry, ceramics, metalwork, leather goods and more. Locally grown flowers and salon services will also be available for purchase.
Delish, located in the Medford Center, specializes in macarons, royal iced cookies and cupcakes. See a “flavor calendar” that features recipes such as “funfetti,” “s’mores,” “margarita,” “fruit pebbles,” and even “dill pickle” on his website, delishoregon.com
Brewed in Medford, Moxie Brew uses locally grown ingredients in recipes inspired by the season, including strawberry-lavender and elderberry-grapefruit. The company fills growlers at local farmers’ markets. See moxiebrew.com
Located in Talent, Playhouse Coffee is an eco-responsible and fair-trade coffee roaster. Its small batches and custom blends come in compostable or recyclable packaging. See playhousecoffee.com
Join a Grants Pass club and explore the world through wine, cheese and fine cuisine.
Partake Shop & Lounge is recruiting for its “Explorers Club”, which is scheduled to launch the third week of May. Membership costs $75 to $99 per month, offering at least three hard-to-find wines each month, special prices, exclusive tastings and members-only events, including cheese and wine pairings and on-site dinners and Offsite. Membership also waives the service charge on all bottles of wine consumed in Partake’s lounge.
Explorer tickets for a six-course dinner in April were $75, compared to $100 for other diners. Sign up at the Wine Shop or Lounge, 111 SE G St., or by emailing [email protected]
Open since November, Partake combines wine and cheese retail stores with a bar serving wines, cocktails, light meals and desserts. The shops are open from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday, the salon from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. from Tuesday to Thursday, until 10 p.m. on Friday and from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday. See partakegp.com
Cookies are the focus of a new Medford food truck.
Wild Flour Cookies came out last month, selling its freshly baked treats at the Great Eats of the Street pod adjacent to the Medford Post Office, 325 S. Riverside Ave. The truck operates from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, or until it sells out. Follow @wildflourcookiesoregon on Instagram for updates.
Do you have a Tempo treat to share? Send news about the local restaurant, food and drink scene to: [email protected]
Sarah Lemon has savored the Rogue Valley dining scene for nearly two decades as one of the original contributors to Tempo’s restaurant column. His palate has helped judge some of the region’s food competitions and festivals. A former editor of A la Carte, the weekly food section of the Mail Tribune, she writes a bi-weekly column, The Whole Dish, as well as blogs and podcasts under the same name. Listen at mailtribune.com/podcasts and read more at mailtribune.com/lifestyle/the-whole-dish. Follow @the.whole.dish on Instagram, @thewholedish on Twitter or check out facebook.com/thewholedish.