Cooking is not a skill everyone possesses.

But Chano Valencia and Maria Luz at Samantha’s Pupusas were lucky, and they want to share their passion for cooking with the community.

Samantha’s Pupusas, named after Luz’s daughter, started as a food truck at a flea market in Durham. Valencia and Luz — who are from Mexico and El Salvador, respectively — have since moved their business to 117 Cornelius St. in Hillsborough. The Hillsborough location has been open for about 18 months.

According to Valencia, most people come to Samantha’s Pupusas curious about the food it is named after – pupusas.

“Mostly people ask, ‘What are pupusas?’”

Pupusas are a traditional Salvadoran dish that consists of a thick corn tortilla filled with cheese and other ingredients – like fried pork, beans, chicken, chorizo or vegetables, according to Valencia. Luz serves their pupusas with tomato salsa and Salvadoran sauerkraut.

Samantha’s Pupusas also serves more well-known foods like tacos, burritos and quesadillas. On weekends, Luz likes to serve special soups with chicken or beef and spices made of dried chilis.

Valencia said Luz uses different spices for Mexican and Salvadoran food. Mexican food, he says, has more spice.

“The Mexican tortilla is a little bit thinner, and the Salvadoran tortilla is a little bit thicker, almost like a chocolate chip cookie,” Valencia said.

Luz and Valencia met in Durham, and started their business in a food truck at the Saturday and Sunday flea market. This lasted for a year before they saw the empty building where their restaurant is now.

Valencia said he and Luz work as a team along with Luz’s son, Alex. Valencia is in charge of baking. He makes cakes, cookies and breads.

“We’re trying to make everything homemade, like tortillas, cookies, cakes, from scratch.”

Samantha’s Pupusas has influence from both Valencia’s and Luz’s backgrounds in Mexico and El Salvador, as well as what they have learned from living in America.

“I want to share what I know,” Valencia said. “(Luz) wants to share what she knows.”

Because they have only had the business for less than two years, Valencia said they look forward to growing and bringing more food to the community.

“I’m happy when they leave happier,” Valencia said. “We want to share and see people are happy with the food.”

Story, featured image by: Britney Nguyen