Paraguay is a bilingual country where Spanish and Guarani (the native language) are widely spoken in various parts of the country. The present Paraguayan cuisine is a mix of the native Guarani and the European culinary influences. Kivevé is a symbol of Paraguayan gastronomy that makes use of readily available simple ingredients in any Paraguayan household. It has slowly gained popularity among the locals and foreigners.
Kivevé, also known as Castilianized quibebé, is of the Guarani origin. It is widely consumed in parts of north Argentina, Paraguay and South Brazil. Even though it is aboriginal of the Guarani, it became popular only after the colonization in the first half of the 19th century. Due to the unavailability of the European local ingredients, the European colonies were not able to completely change the Paraguayan cuisine to their liking. Hence, they were forced to work with what they had. The Creoles and Spaniards took an immense liking to this kivevé and spread it throughout the Rio de la plata regions in South America.
The Guarani people were excellent hunters and farmers. They tilled and cultivated their land with great reverence. They also had amazing culinary skills and proudly made use of their locally produced crops in interesting ways. Hence, cassava, corn flour and fresh cheese are common ingredients in most Paraguayan meals.
Kivevé means red in the indigenous South American language, Guarani. Since the andai, the Paraguayan pumpkin, has a juicy and deep reddish orange flesh, the end product also results in a similar color tone. Hence, the dish got its name – kivevé. Colloquially, this term is also used to refer the redheaded people.
Kivevé is a Paraguayan speciality made with andai, maize flour and a local cheese – queso paraguay. It is a semi-sweet creamy pumpkin based dish, which has a texture and consistency in between that of a soup and purée, more or less like a polenta. It is quite simple in preparation and uses very few ingredients.
Corn (maize) forms an integral part of the Paraguayan cuisine and diet. From kernels to flour, every part of the corn is widely used in the local kitchens. Most soups, like bori bori, use maize flour as a base. The most popular dishes like sopa paraguaya, chipá manduvi, chipá guazú are all made with maize flour as the main ingredient.
The corn flour mentioned in this recipe refers to cornmeal and not cornstarch. Try to get a finely milled cornmeal (yellow or white) variety to use in kivevé. Try to avoid polenta flour as they are very coarse and the dish would become grainy. One of the main hindrances in making this dish is that it lumps easily due to the nature of the maize flour. Please follow the recipe notes given below to avoid it.
Another unique ingredient used in the recipe is the Paraguayan cheese known as kesú paraguai (queso paraguay) in Guarani. It is a local speciality made with cow’s milk and is a little bland. The unique preparation lends a creamy and doughy textured cheese with slight acid flavor. It is difficulty to get the traditional kesú paraguai everywhere, so please refer to recipe notes for alternatives.
Because of the neutral taste of the main ingredients in this recipe, it is suitable to be included in any course of the meal. Kivevé is generally served on the side of asados (grilled meat) or complements the most popular traditional barbecue dishes. It can also be served with a chunky tomato sauce as a main course for a vegetarian meal. Double the amount of sugar and this becomes a dessert in itself.
Paraguayans also enjoy this as a breakfast and it is served lukewarm. Some even pour extra cold milk over and relish it. This resembles another popular dessert – andai kambu (pumpkin milk), which is nothing but puréed pumpkin, sweetener and cold milk. The native people claim that this is the best way to beat the heat during the summer.
Locals also believe that kivevé is ideal for lactating mothers as pumpkin helps in breastfeeding.
However you have it, this recipe is mild and gentle providing comfort and warmth to the palate.
- 1 lb pumpkin
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons margarine
- 2 cups maize flour (extra fine cornmeal)
- 3 oz. queso paraguay (Paraguayan cheese), grated
- Peel and remove the seeds from the pumpkin.
- Cut into pieces and boil in the water, salt and sugar until tender.
- Drain the pumpkin and purée. Reserve the cooking water.
- Pour all the pumpkin purée into the cooking water.
- Cook for one minute, stirring constantly.
- Add margarine and maize flour and mix well.
- Add cheese, mix well and remove from heat.