I discovered Mi Tierra in my sophomore year of college and it quickly became one of my favorite Waltham restaurants. It was one of my first introductions to Central American cuisine before I studied abroad in Costa Rica. A few things you should know about the food at Mi Tierra and Guatemalan/Salvadoran cuisine in general: it is insanely starchy and you will leave feeling stuffed; unlike the cuisine of many South American countries which tends to be meat-heavy, Central American cuisine tends to be very vegetarian-friendly, relying heavily on rice and beans, starchy vegetables like yucca and plantains, avocado and cheese. There is of course plenty of meat to go with this, but all of those elements on their own make for a satisfying meal.
Sometimes I order the cheese pupusa plate, pictured above, which comes with black beans, rice plantains , a mild tomato-based sauce, and curtido, a wonderfully sweet and tangy slaw, on the side. A pupusa is a round of masa dough filled with any of several fillings including cheese or cheese and pork. The cheese melts and oozes out of the edges. In spots where it hits the griddle, the cheese browns and gets slightly crunchy.
The past few times I’ve gone, though, I’ve elected to construct my own platter, that includes all the same sides, but with an order of their freshly made guacamole and soft masa tortillas instead of pupusas. The guacamole is always thick and luscious, with little more added to it than a handful of onion, cilantro and lime juice. The beans give new meaning to refried beans. Black beans are lightly mashed into patties and fried. They get a nice crust and the outside and stay creamy on the inside. The guacamole comes with tortilla chips, but I always ask for it with fresh tortillas instead. Made from the same dough as the pupusas, the tortillas have a very thin and dry outer crust that is slightly chewy. The masa beneath the crust stays soft and moist, almost the consistency of grits. The plantains (plátanos) are always perfectly ripe, sweet and tender with dark, caramelized edges. The best bites are those that combine a little bit of each element: sweet plantains, creamy and earthy beans, rich guacamole, chewy rice, and crunchy curtido, all drizzled with the tangy sauce.
The walls are adorned with maps of Central America and a mounted television is also playing Telemundo or telenovelas. I think in my five or so years of going to Mi Tierra, I have been served by the same one woman every time, who is also the hostess. Mi Tierra serves an excellent brunch, which basically just takes the above dishes and adds eggs into the mix. The sweet and milky horchata is delightful if not slightly more sugar than you need with your meal. If you are looking for excellent and authentic Salvadoran food, I would say a trip out to Waltham is worth your time.
Do you know of any good, authentic Central American food closer to Boston/ Cambridge?