It is a torta de carne, or a small deep-fried patty prepared with cassava, minced meat and topped with scallions. The exterior is crisp while the interior is tender and tasty.
There are a few variants for payaguá mascada. The most traditional ingredients are cassava, beef and scallions. Some recipes add lard.
This recipe is perfect with a salad.
Literally, payaguá mascada is translated as “payaguá bite”. This dish refers to the indigenous ethnic group called Payaguás that lived in Paraguay in pre-Columbian times.
They used to eat lampreado-like preparations that were also eaten by another indigenous ethnic group called the Guaraní. Spanish settlers have made it a more elaborate dish to satisfy their taste and new ingredients were, including beef.
Lampreado is somewhat similar to Middle Eastern kibbeh, that are prepared with minced meat and bulgur. One could also find them a similarity with the Spanish croquetas or the popular falafels, although the latter are vegetarian.
There seems to be a distinction between lampreado and payaguá mascada: the difference lies in one main ingredient: cassava. Indeed, lampreado that is prepared with cassava would be called payaguá mascada. However, most people nowadays do not make the distinction, and one or the other of these terms can be used to designate those meat patties.
Yuca (or cassava)
This root vegetable is very versatile. Its root is very rich in carbohydrate and starch, and is gluten free. Its leaves can also be consumed. Cassava is processed into starch that is known as tapioca.
Yuca (or mandioca) is native to Latin America. With corn, it was the food of the natives of the pre-colonial era.
After the Paraguayan War (1864-1870) against the Triple Alliance (Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay), the country’s economic activity declined as the country and the population were devastated. Food production was limited and the population was suffering from famines.
Paraguayan cuisine has tried to adapt by offering dishes that are rich in protein and carbohydrates such as payaguá mascada, made from cassava.
These patties are quick to prepare, require only few ingredients and store very well. Hence, it was a meal that was perfect for travelers, ranchers or people working all day in the fields.
Fiesta de San Juan (Bonfires of Saint John)
In Paraguay, payagua mascada is especially consumed at the St. John festival which takes place on June 24. People also eat chipa, a cheese bread and its variant the chipa so’o, that is stuffed with beef, or pastel mandi’o, a kind of cassava empanada that is filled with beef, or mbeju, a flat cheese bread.
And all of these specialties are perfect sides for an with asado, the Paraguayan grilled meats, a real institution over there.
These festivities that celebrate the summer solstice are an opportunity to light a bonfire and play games around the fire to give strength to the sun and purify yourself.
The most dangerous of those games is probably the tatá pelota, which consists of throwing a flaming ball in the middle of the crowd. Tatá ári jehasa is also a daring game. It consists in walking barefoot on hot embers over a few feet.
There is absolutely no reason to wait for St John celebrations to prepare this delicious snack!
- 1 lb ground beef
- 2 lb cassava
- 2 cloves garlic
- 5 scallions
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cube vegetable bouillon (or beef bouillon), diluted in ½ cup/100ml of boiling water
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- 1 tablespoon fine salt
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 6 tablespoons cornstarch (or flour)
- In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and sauté 1 scallion and 1 garlic clove, both chopped, over medium heat.
- Add the meat and mix well.
- Add the diluted bouillon cube, mix well and cook the meat for 20 minutes, stirring regularly until the sauce is reduced. If necessary, increase the heat at the end of cooking to reduce the sauce completely. Set aside.
- In another skillet, heat remaining 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil and fry remaining chopped scallion and garlic over medium-high heat for 3 minutes without burning and stirring regularly. Drain and reserve.
- Peel the cassava and cut it into pieces.
- Boil in a large pot with salted water for 30 minutes or until tender.
- Drain well and purée.
Mix the fried meat, mashed cassava, scallion and garlic, salt, cumin and 2 tablespoons cornstarch (or flour).
- Mix well until everything is combined.
Moisten hands and form balls. Flatten them into small patties of about ½ inch thick and 2 to 3 inches (5-8cm) in diameter.
- Coat all the payaguás with the remaining starch (or flour).
- Heat a large bath of cooking oil in a frying pan and fry all the payaguás on both sides.
- Drain on paper towels and serve hot.