In the Guarani villages of the province of Misiones, there is a typical and almost exclusive food of the department of Alto Paraná, one of the 17 departments of Paraguay. It is called reviro.
Only 3 ingredients form the dough of this reviro that can often replace bread during a meal: all-purpose flour, water and salt. An egg is sometimes added to make what is called reviro con huevo, but there was no egg in the original recipe. Also, and even if it’s not the authentic recipe, it is very common to use cornmeal for this reviro recipe.
Its flavor is similar to that of a fritter such as churros or sfenj but its consistency is crumbly. Indeed, the reviro dough is fried as a single block but it is then broken into pieces while cooking.
History of the reviro
Reviro was born in the late nineteenth century, in the province of Misiones, a subdivision of Argentina located in the northeast of the country. It is bordered by Paraguay to the west and Brazil to the east from north to south, and to the southwest by the province of Corrientes, one of the Guarani lands.
Reviro appeared at the time of Mensús.
Mensú is the name given to the rural jungle worker in the Paraguayan region and the Argentine provinces of Corrientes and Misiones, and in particular the worker of the yerba mate plantations (pronounced maté).
The original guaraní term comes from the Spanish word for mensual (monthly), referring to the frequency of payment of wages. Historically, mensú work was considered slavish labor.
The preparation of the reviro was very common among the Mensús of yerbatales (or yerbales), the plantations of yerba mate.
Reviro was quick to prepare. It had enough energy to help face the hard day of work in the yerbatales, which had to be done in conditions that were often at the limit of legality.
A concrete and realistic hypothesis tells that reviro was born from the fact that the owners of the yerbatales never fed Mensús. They could spend months at work from morning to night without receiving care or food from their bosses. The only two foods that were always available were flour and fat. One day, out of necessity, the Mensús decided to make reviro dough by making use of the few available ingredients to prepare a breakfast that brought a lot of energy.
There is also a legend around the birth of reviro. This legend tells the story of a mother who was in tears, grieving as she didn’t have the financial means to offer good meals to her children. She let her tears flow into the pot of flour that she was stirring. Her tears brought enough moisture to the flour to make a dough, and so the reviro was born.
This reviro, considered to be “the bread of the poor” was very often accompanied by cocido. Cocido is a bitter drink, similar to mate but milder, with the same stimulating and nutritional properties. However, unlike mate, cocido is infused in hot water. Today it is also sold in packets, such as tea or herbal tea bags, so that it can be prepared quickly, just like tea.
Reviro sometimes replaces bread during the meal, especially at breakfast or lunch, accompanied by minced meat or a fried egg. It can be served in savory version as well as a sweet version, although the savory version is most popular.
Reviro is a kind of small fried croutons. I personally accompanied reviro with a fried egg. I also sprinkled some of these small croutons on a green salad. I am sure it would be the perfect companion for many soups or just hot butter and honey.
A vuestra salud!
- 5 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg (optional)
- 1 cup water (approximately)
- 2 tablespoons margarine (or 4 tablespoons vegetable oil), for frying
- Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl.
- Stir the water gradually while stirring vigorously by hand or with a wooden spoon until a light and homogeneous dough starts to detach from the sides of the bowl.
- In a cast iron or stainless steel pan, heat the margarine or oil over medium-high heat.
- Place the dough in one block in the hot fat.
- After a few minutes, when the bottom of the dough is a little brown, turn it over and cook the other side for 3 minutes.
- Using a wooden spoon, beat the dough several times until it breaks into small pieces.
- Cook these small dough croutons on low/medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly until lightly browned.