Paraguay

Food in Paraguay

Valerie Cherbero explores the tastes and temptations of Paraguayan cuisine

To understand a country, start in the kitchen.

For a country as underexplored as Paraguay, it takes a few bites to really get the feel of the land and its people. Luckily, it’s a pleasure to ladle out a hot bowl of bori bori (corn dumpling soup) or bite into a hearty slice of chipa guazù (often described as a corn & cheese soufflé), so the gastronomic research is well worth it.

Although Paraguay’s cuisine is in some ways typical South American fare, it does have its own Guaranì twist. Corn grows abundantly, so dishes tend to be sweet and creamy, and one can often find tantalizing pairings of meat and fruit. Although Paraguayan cuisine isn’t particularly spicy, it is unequivocal comfort food, a perfect complement to its warm and friendly people.

Sopa Paraguaya

One Paraguayan mystery is the sopa paraguaya. Commonly mistaken for a soup, the dish is actually a dense cornbread made with cheese and grilled onions. This fusion of corn and dairy reflects Paraguay’s Guaranì and Spanish influences, which blend together throughout Paraguayan culture and certainly within its gastronomy. To understand its name, you have to return to myth. According to legend, Paraguayan founder Don Carlos Antonio López asked his guaranì cook to prepare him some soup. After the cook accidentally added too much corn flour, the soup baked into a dense savory cake. Luckily for the cook, López preferred the new creation. The dish was transformed but the name stuck.

 

Empanada

Although empanadas aren’t necessarily Paraguayan, they are an essential and delicious part of its cuisine. With its many grasslands and cows, Paraguay has perfected the art of crafting delicious beef recipes. Whether barbequed, baked into a meatloaf, or even ground into a soup, Paraguayan beef is not to be missed. The best way to try it? The empanada: a flaky pastry filled with beef, peppers, garlic, and onion. You can certainly find this savoury treat in any South American restaurant, but it’s best enjoyed with a refreshing cup of tereré and the warm Paraguayan sun kissing your face.

 

Tereré

Few Paraguayan traditions are as enduring and unique as the sharing of tereré, a drink made from yerba mate tea. Although most South Americans drink yerba mate hot, the Paraguayans take a different approach. To combat the blistering heat, Paraguayans drink tereré cold, usually with ice and herbs and surrounded by friends. It’s a refreshing ritual, certainly, but it also provides a setting for community and conversation, making it an indispensible part of Paraguayan life.

 

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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