I’m not trying to start a fight. I can name a dozen addictively delicious ways to eat green cabbage—in fact, I have a jar of homemade Sichuan-style brine-fermented cabbage in the fridge right now, which I love with my chili oil. I had to say “best” because this is Best of Chicago, but it’d be better to say I’ve been craving this combination in an unhinged way—and if you haven’t tried it yet, you’re gonna want to get right on that.
I usually get curtido and pupusas at Pupuseria & Restaurant “El Cuscatleco” (3125 W. Lawrence) or Las Delicias (4010 W. Montrose). Most curtido recipes build on a foundation of shredded cabbage and carrot with onion, scallion, hot pepper, or all three; it’s a quick-pickled slaw dressed with vinegar, salt, a bit of sugar, and a magical sprinkling of dried Mexican oregano. El Salvador claims it, but you can find it at all sorts of Latin American restaurants.
As a fiend for all things pickled, I’ll eat curtido by itself, but with pupusas it really shines. Curtido’s snappy texture and herbaceous, almost fruity zing perfectly complement the fatty richness of pupusas—nutty masa, gooey cheese, spicy stewed chicharrones, earthy chipilín leaves or loroco buds. The crisp, caramelized coins of cheese that’ve oozed onto the grill are each a little bite of heaven with a forkful of slaw. Do you ever feel sad when you get full, because it means you have to stop eating? This is that kind of meal.