Paraguayan gastronomy - Food and recipes

The Paraguayan kitchen, as is the case in all cultural expressions, has a strong indigenous roots, although the eating habits of Paraguayans became much more open since colonization, and cooking standards now come European origins, as well as the rest of the countries of the world, in modern times.

The bases for Paraguayan gastronomy are found in two main staples of indigenous origin:  cassava (a tuber with generous roots, also known as mandioca or yuca) and corn (American grain), from which a variety of products are made for consumption in varying forms.

Cassava processing gives us fariña (a type of flour), typyraty and almidón, three very distinct products, used in different dishes. The presence of cassava at the Paraguayan dinner table spans a variety of presentations, from the root boiled in salt as a side dish, to the exquisite chipá, traditional bread kneaded with cassava starch, milk, cheese and eggs, which is the focal point of some festivities such as Holy Week.

Also, corn takes various shapes, from sweet kernels in the delicious chipá guasú to corn flour used in dishes as diverse as Paraguayan soup—the world’s only known solid soup—or borí borí, a thick broth to which balls of corn and cheese are added.

Sopa paraguaya or "Paraguayan soup"

Other basic elements of the oldest Paraguayan kitchen are yams, beans, squash, peanuts and coconuts, as well as fowl and wild game.  In modern times, we can add to the list: beef, absolute king among Sunday barbeques; and in smaller quantities, pork, chicken and fish; and in even smaller amounts, meat from other animals, such as lamb.

Typical Paraguayan foods cover a wide variety which includes some old-fashioned dishes like mbeyú, a delicious omelet with cassava starch, drizzled with cheese, and puchero, a traditional stew, of obvious Spanish origin.  From the extensive list, we can extract dishes with such names as jopara, reviro, locro, arró quesú (Paraguayan-style rice with cheese), lambreado, pastel mandi’o, payaguá mascada, chicharö (cracklings), so’o yosopy, caldo avá, and the clearly Paraguayan-adapted bife koyguá, a succulent and juicy beef cut with onions and fried eggs.  Quesú paraguái, cheese made by Paraguayan artisans from the countryside, adds a special touch to many recipes.

Tatakuá - Clay and brick oven

Among the typical desserts we can mention kaguyjy (mazamorra, a traditional sweet dish made from crushed corn, sugar and honey), kivevé, sweet polenta made with corn flour and pumpkin; koserevá, a dessert prepared with citrus fruits such as the sour orange; ka’i ladrillo, a sweet made with peanuts, cut into small cubes that remind one of bricks; dulce de mamón, a dessert made from the genip; and arró kamby, a local version of European rice pudding.

Finally, mate cannot be forgotten, the infallible infusion and ritual that Paraguayans consume everyday, with its stimulating abilities which come from the gourd flask in which one puts the yerba mate (Ylex paraguayensis) and then adds hot water, then sucks through a metal straw.  The flavor and the goodness of the mate can improve one’s well-being with medicinal herbs. The variants of mate are mate cocido (boiled mate), that is drunk from a cup and can be mixed with milk, and teteré, which is consumed cold, and is a refreshing drink for long and hot Paraguayan summers.

Yerba mate - Ylex paraguayensis

Typical Paraguayan foods, which until recently were enjoyed almost exclusively in the home—restaurants offered only a few dishes such as Paraguayan soup and chipá guasú—, in the last few years inspired the opening of specialized stores, where one can enjoy a Paraguayan lunch or dinner from appetizers to dessert, in an accordingly decorated ambience, with the best artisanship in the country.