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Food in Paraguay

On a bird’s eye view of South America, it would be easy to miss a small landlocked country, enclosed between Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina. That country is Paraguay or, officially, the Republic of Paraguay. Paraguay culture has Spanish and Guarani roots; both, Guarani and Spanish, are official languages and widely spoken and equally important.

The cooking, as the culture, is Guarani with deep Spanish influences, and some international ones, mostly French and Italian. Vegetables like manioc and corn feature strongly, as do meats –beef, pork, lamb, chicken and local game. The disadvantage of not having a coastline makes Paraguayan cuisine short on fish recipes.

From the recipes in my archive, Paraguayan soup –sopa Paraguaya- has always been a family favorite; just know it is not a soup at all, it is a rich bun made with cornmeal and cheese. You could serve it on the side of a beef dish or with the popular arroz con pollo –literally: rice with chicken, but more familiar as chicken with rice is common all through South America and Paraguay has its own version. A zucchini soup as starter, and dulce de leche, Paraguayan style would complete the menu. Drink yerba mate tea through the afternoon –invigorating because of its caffeine content- and have a real soup -Paraguayan beef soup, that is- for a light supper, so nourishing it makes a meal all by itself.

Mate is an infusion prepared by steeping yerba mate leaves in hot water, very much like tea. When preparing mate, the water should not be so boiling to prevent bitter flavor from debeloping. Drink mate from a special gourd with a metal straw. Sharing the gourd with friends is socially correct.

In Paraguay, you may find:

Batata - sweet potato.

Choclo - tender corn.

Guarani - the language of the natives spoke in the region before the Spanish settlers arrived.

Zapallo - zucchini, courgette.