Welcome to the Corazón de Sudamérica! Located just south and east of Brazil, southwest of Bolivia, and north of Argentina, Paraguay is truly in the Heart of South America. Like many of its neighbors, Paraguay was a colony of Spain for several centuries and shares many similarities in its cuisine. Barbecuing, or Asado, is super popular for its great format as not only a way to cook, but as a full-blown social occasion that brings together family and friends. As you can guess, it is a meat-forward event that I, for one, endorse wholeheartedly. I’d love nothing more than spending a free Sunday barbecuing outside with my best friends. But there is more to it than just Asado. Bori-bori, a chicken soup made with cornmeal dumplings is ubiquitous and you can’t stumble anywhere without encountering some delicious Paraguayan cheese.
But the dish I want to look at today is a curious one with a fantastic story. Today, we’re making Sopa Paraguaya. With even a minimal about of Spanish language, I recognize this dish as “Paraguayan Soup.” It’s the national dish, however, it most certainly is not soup! And there is a charming legend about its history.
Apparently, the creation of this dish goes back to a time 30 years after their independence. Paraguay gained its independence in 1811, but had years of one dictator after another that preferred isolationist policies. The one that applies to this story is Don Carlos Antonio Lopez, the “president” (read: dictator) in power from 1841 to 1862.
Lopez was known as a very obese man who loved a white soup that was made with milk, cheese, egg, and cornmeal. Legend has it that he wanted his favorite corn soup, but his cook inadvertently added too much cornmeal and it solidified the way Cream of Wheat can in the microwave if you cook the hell out of it. She didn’t have time to remake the recipe, so she ran with it! She tossed the pan into a tatakua oven and baked it until it solidified completely and served it to Lopez.
That took some cojones! Well, Don Carlos loved it and he named it “Sopa Paraguaya” keeping the soup reference since it started from one. The rest is history! This mistake turned out to be a delicious “bread” that we can all enjoy. Let’s bake one together! I chose to make a recipe developed by my chef role model Francis Mallmann in his book Mallmann on Fire.
Sopa Paraguya (Cornbread)
This bread is absolutely delicious! It is as at home with your dinner as it is at a savory breakfast. There is the combination of the onions and the mozzarella are just awesome. We’re in love with how simple this is to make as well. Just throw a few things in the pan, and bam, that’s it! Easy and delicious – you’re going to love it.
Next time I make this, I’m going to try blending the cornmeal and cheese in with the liquid ingredients to disperse it a little more evenly. I’m not sure how well it’ll work because I’m worried that the cornmeal will settle-out, but I’ll give it a try and report back!
In conclusion, this recipe is dynamite. For something this good to come out of a mistake in the kitchen 150 years ago is really cool. Sopa paraguaya is a fantastic bread that you are going to love – you need to make this right now!
Tried this recipe? Let us know what you think about it and comment below!
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