The cuisine of Paraguay is varied. It has a Neolithic origin, with the presence of Tupi-Guarani ethnic groups, also influenced by Spanish and Italian cuisines due to immigration and with less presence of the Portuguese due to several invasions because it borders on Brazil, which was under its domain.
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.
Puchero is a type of stew originally from Spain, prepared in Yucatán (Mexico), Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Peru, south of Brazil, the Philippines, and Spain, specifically the autonomous communities of Andalusia and the Canary Islands. The name comes from the Spanish word puchero which means “stewpot”.
This dish is essentially equivalent to the cocido of Spain but lacking colorants (such as paprika), using local ingredients which vary from one region to another. In Spain, chickpeas are widely used. A dish similar to puchero called sancocho is consumed in Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Puerto Rico.
In Andalusia, puchero was originally a peasant soup. The basic ingredients of the broth are meat (beef, veal, pork and/or chicken), bacon, cured bones (such as those of the jamón serrano), and vegetables (potatoes, celery, chard, leek, carrots, and turnips). It can be drunk straight in mugs as a consommé known as caldo de puchero, which can be seasoned with fresh spearmint leaves or sherry. Alternatively, it can be prepared as a soup after adding chickpeas, cured ham, boiled egg, and rice, noodles or bread. The meat leftovers, called pringá, are usually served separately as a main dish, and the remnants used for subsequent dishes as croquettes or ropa vieja.
This stew is considered a lower- and middle class staple, and is traditionally served during the fall and winter. It can be found on menus in family and regional restaurants throughout Paraguay, but not at the more expensive restaurants.
The dish is prepared quite similarly as in Spain, though its ingredients are significantly different due to the vastly different local produce. In the parts of Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay surrounding the estuary of the Río de la Plata, puchero is primarily beef-based, as beef was plentiful and cheap, and chickpeas are less common there than in the Iberian peninsula.
In Philippine cuisine, puchero (Tagalog: putsero) refers to a dish composed of beef chunks stewed with saba bananas (or plantains). The dish may also include potatoes or sweet potatoes, chorizos de Bilbao, bok choy, leeks, chickpeas, cabbage and tomato sauce. Other versions replace beef with chicken or pork.
The Yucatec puchero varies by cook and region. The most complete version is called puchero de tres carnes – “with three meats”, pork, beef and chicken. This could actually be a great vegetarian dish if made without the meat as the other ingredients include a piece of plantain in skin, onion, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash (calabaza), turnips, white cabbage (repollo) and typically a type of pasta (noodles/fideos) and rice to increase the heartiness and especially if only one or two meats are used.
The soup, like almost all of Yucatec soups or stews, is broth consommé, not at all thick or heavy. It is flavored with saffron, allspice and black pepper. The dish is served with all ingredients in the bowl and a side of fresh additions. Traditionally, a side plate is provided so that the person can put the meat to the side while eating the soup. The garnish consists of freshly chopped or diced habanero, onion, radish and cilantro. Avocados when in season.
At any time of the year, there is not a week in which a pucherazo is not included on the menu of Paraguayan families, it is consumed mostly on Monday at noon to regain strength and compensate weekend meals.
Usually the meat of ossobuco is used and the caracu is usually one of the most demanded parts of the dish. It is usually completed with a little rice or thin noodles (angel hair type), and accompanied with hot manioc and sometimes tortillitas paraguayas (Paraguayan tortillas). Another common practice is to accompany this dish with a salad of lettuce and tomato, which is consumed with the meat of the stew once all the broth has been “taken”.
The translation of puchero,”stewpot,”is a reference to the large, clay pot in which the stew originally was cooked. This dish originated as a peasant food and was traditionally eaten over the course of several days where the first day it is consumed with rice, the second day it is consumed with noodles and if there are still leftovers, it is used in a variety of dishes like croquettes or ropa vieja (a shredded beef in a tomato sauce).
In South America (such as Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay) they use more meat and sometimes don’t use chickpeas as it is less common in those countries, In Spain, they use more chickpeas than meat, and in the Philippines, they use chickpeas or white beans.
If this was a peasant food during the early days, I guess this is a good reason to be one. Paraguay is a bilingual country where both Spanish and Guaraní (an aboriginal language) are spoken indistinctively and sometimes even mixed. Due to this bilingualism, some of the dishes have names in Guaraní, some in Spanish, and some in a mixture of both languages.
There is no major variation in the way dishes are prepared in the different regions of Paraguay. Just sometimes, the preparation may vary in a couple of things (if it does) for example, instead of the Tatakua (which is a brick/adobe oven) a common kitchen oven is used.
This dish is best enjoyed with steaming hot rice.
- 1½ lb beef (skirt or flank steak, cut into pieces)
- 3 cloves garlic , cut in half
- 1 onion , chopped
- 1 green bell pepper , diced
- 2 carrots
- 10 oz. pumpkin , grated
- 2 potatoes , grated
- ½ cup rice
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- In a saucepan, boil 10 cups of water with the onion, carrots and bell pepper for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a pressure cooker, heat olive oil and sauté garlic and meat over high heat, stirring constantly.
- When the meat is browned, add the reserved broth and the vegetables.
- Close the pressure cooker and cook for 45 minutes over medium-low heat.
- Rinse the rice.
- After 45 minutes of cooking, open the pressure cooker and add the rice, potatoes and pumpkin.
- Close the pressure cooker and continue cooking for 15 minutes.