There is no question the staff at Las Delicias in the Mayfair neighborhood is focused on Guatemalan food. There are the pupusas of course, stuffed with all manner of beans, cheese or pork, but also pepian, a chicken stew that resembles a Mexican mole somewhat.
"People from Mexico they do the mole, they have to roast everything so they can give the color to it. So the mole and the pepian they are similar because the process is the same," said Hugo Gutierrez, who runs the restaurant with his parents. "The difference is we take out the seeds - the seeds for the peppers - we take it out and Mexican people leave the seeds in so they can make it a little bit hot."
EXTRA COURSE: Pupusas at Las Delicias in Mayfair
Tortillas, bread, tomatoes and onions are cooked, along with pasilla and guajillo chiles. Meanwhile sesame and pumpkin seeds are toasted to release their essential oils. Everything gets soaked in water then pureed.
"After you toast everything, you put it together in a tray so you can put water and then you boil it. After you boil it you take it to the grinder," he said.
And that liquid is then strained of all seeds and added to a pot with chicken, as well as some fresh cilantro. The dish is served with rice and homemade tortillas for a filling, satisfying main dish.
About a mile or so away, BryAnna's is another haven for Guatemalan and El Salvadorean ex-pats in Arcadia Terrace. Yes, the pupusas are fantastic, especially when served with the bracing cabbage relish called curtido. But it's the pepian that remains a constant on their menu.
"It's actually very popular in Guatemala, by Mayan people," said Milton Aguilar, the owner.
Same process: bread, tortillas, tomatoes and those pumpkin and sesame seeds, plus anchos and guajillos, all of which is toasted. Here they add bay leaf, red onions and clove for some additional depth of flavor. Served with potatoes and green beans, it's more than satisfying with rice and tortillas on the side.
"Tortillas we usually roll up the tortillas, have a bit of the rice and the sauce with chicken and tortillas on the side," said Aguilar.
So a pair of delicious options for a Guatemalan specialty, and if you do come to BryAnna's, make sure you try atole, a corn drink with cinnamon, milk and sugar. It is really delicious.
4010 W. Montrose Ave.
5695 N. Lincoln Ave.