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News / Life / Clark County Life

Tiny trucks full of flavor: Snack vans in Orchards provide pupusas, desserts and more

By Rachel Pinsky, Columbian freelance food writer
Published: February 16, 2024, 6:08am
6 Photos
Hello Waffle and Maranatha Pupusas food truck sells around Vancouver.
Hello Waffle and Maranatha Pupusas food truck sells around Vancouver. (Photos by Rachel Pinsky) Photo Gallery

Linda Cameron didn’t expect to start a food business when she made pupusas for fellow members of Cristo Vive Pentecostal Church in Hazel Dell. This Salvadoran dish was new to the other congregants, many of whom immigrated from Mexico. The thick round masa cakes filled with cheese were an instant hit. Cameron’s fellow churchgoers encouraged her to start a business.

Cameron made Maranatha Pupusas official by obtaining a license to sell her food at events around town and in Portland. Her griddle cakes proved popular. She realized that the special recipe she learned from a relative from El Salvador could lead to a successful business. She bought the two Hello Waffle trucks (one in Camas and one in Orchards) and began selling pupusas along with overnight yeasted waffles topped with a variety of sweet and savory toppings, including Nutella and banana, and brie and prosciutto.

Pupusas are flat, thick, round griddle cakes or flatbreads from El Salvador and Honduras made from masa (nixtamalized corn flour) or rice flour filled with a variety of ingredients, such as cheese, chicharrones (ground pork rinds), zucchini and refried beans.

In Vancouver, they’re typically made with corn masa. On Fridays, Cameron plans on selling rice-flour pupusas. It took Cameron 10 tries to get her rice-flour dough recipe just right. She will also offer pupusas filled with cheese and edible flowers called loroco on Fridays.

Cameron uses mozzarella for filling because it’s the closest to the cheese used in El Salvador that she can get here. Curtido, a vinegar-based oregano infused cabbage, onion and carrot slaw served on the side, adds a tangy counterpoint to the rich cakes. Cameron makes her curtido with apple cider vinegar, which gives it a touch of sweetness.

I drove out to Maranatha Pupusas on a Tuesday and arrived a bit before noon. The menu included pupusas with chicharrón and cheese ($6 each), cheese only ($5.75), beans and cheese ($5.75), serrano peppers and cheese ($5.75), and a mixed pupusa with beans, chicharrón, cheese and mixed beans ($6). The mixed pupusa is the most popular and a family favorite.

“My husband would always say it has to be loaded. I serve this at my food truck because you have to serve your customers the same as you would serve your own family,” Cameron said.

The chef’s choice was a garlic, Parmesan, basil and butter pupusa. This is purely Cameron’s own invention. It’s meant to be similar to garlic bread.

“If you appeal to another culture it helps,” she said.

I tried three pupusas: serrano peppers and cheese, mixed and the chef’s choice. These pupusas are large — at least twice the size of other pupusas I’ve tried. Warm melted cheese filled the earthy griddle-crisped casing.

The pepper-and-cheese version included a generous number of spicy serranos. The garlic, Parmesan, basil and butter version did indeed remind me of buttery garlic bread. My favorite was the mixed, filled with crisp salty bits of chicharrón and creamy beans elevated by a sprinkling of apple cider vinegar infused curtido and Cameron’s fiery red salsa.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Krisey’s Kitchen food truck parked next to Maranatha Pupusas. Krisey’s formerly parked in the Living Hope Church parking lot and recently relocated to this spot in Orchards. At this new space, Kristian “Krisey” Butler again offers a taste of the Big Easy. Generous plates with one main, several sides, a drink, dessert and a roll are $25 to $30, baskets are $15, and sides $6. There’s also a menu of snowballs ($5.50-$7.50) and quick bites such as Kool-Aid pickle slices ($3) and Rotel nachos ($7).

Butler posts her daily menu on Facebook with mains, such as fried catfish, fried chicken, hot honey wings and pork chops; extras (fried okra and deep fried mac and cheese bites); and desserts (raspberry white chocolate Bundt cake and lemon icebox cake).

Butler and her team make food served from a bright blue food truck feel special. I don’t know how they do it, but every dish is a warm hug from New Orleans, a place I visited only once but somehow feels like home.

Columbian freelance food writer