Soyo is a hearty and invigorating soup typical of Paraguayan cuisine. It is found throughout the country at home around the family or in casual restaurants. Formerly considered as a dish of the very poor, it is now appreciated by all and it has even become one of the iconic dishes of the cuisine of Paraguay.
Rich in calories, it allows people to fill up for the a full day of labor. It is usually eaten with tortilla Paraguaya or chipa guazu as its broth is quite thick and needs to be soaked up to appreciate all the flavors. You can also find this recipe in Argentina where it is generally enjoyed in the winter in areas where the temperature can go down very low sometimes.
The word soyo is an abbreviation of so’o josopy, a Guarani word composed of the words so’o which means “meat” and josopy, derived from josopyré which means “crushed”.
There are only about 80,000 Guaranis left today. These populations are regularly victims of expropriations by soya growers, sugar cane and livestock farmers. Many suffer from malnutrition and see their habitat destroyed. This population unfortunately has the world’s highest suicide rate as their living conditions are difficult. Some, however, manage to resist the assimilation and struggles of the modern world and still live in a tribe in northern Paraguay. The terrible threat of deforestation weighs on them continuously and the future of the Guaranis is unfortunately not very promising.
In the past, the Guaranis were a semi-nomadic people moving in search of fertile land. The very beautiful movie “Mission” directed by Roland Joffé in 1986 tells the war of the Guaranis, opposing Portuguese and Spanish to the Indians. A war that marked the beginning of the end for these Indians.
For these extremely poor populations, soyo soup has some benefits, as it is quick and easy to prepare. Much of the effort for the recipe takes place at the very beginning with a mortar, essential accessory of Paraguayan cuisine. The mortar is not only used to crush, but it also allows the flavors of express themselves by slightly heating them and all of the sudden, the entire kitchen smells captivating aromas. The mortar is usually used to crush maize and cassava, two typical products of Paraguayan cuisine. Meat is an expensive product for many Paraguayans and Guaranis, the small amount needed to make soyo soup allows people to consume meat more regularly and prevents children from malformations related to a diet that would be too low in protein. However, many do not manage to buy a piece of beef to prepare it and only make it with vegetables and cereals.
The presence of tomatoes, peppers, parsley and oregano, other typical products of Paraguayan cuisine, bring a lot of freshness to the soyo and make the soup lighter. In fact, it can also be consumed in the summer. Indeed, it is not uncommon to consume a hot beverage, a soup or a stew when it is hot, which can significantly lower the body temperature.
Although it is the result of a lesser known and poor cuisine, we understand better the success of this soup as soon as we taste it. Soyo is halfway between the generous and enjoyable meat stew and the vegetable soup with many flavors. We added a little more oregano, an aromatic herb that we love and that grows around the world and whose tenacity is exemplary. Oregano knows no parasite, withstands the most aggressive climatic changes and is constantly regenerating. Its fragrance, which is close to thyme gives a true personality to this Paraguayan soup and is absolutely essential.
- 3 lb ground beef
- 1 large onion , chopped
- 1 green bell pepper , seeded and diced
- 2 tomatoes , peeled, seeded and diced
- 2 tablespoons rice
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil (or lard)
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ½ bunch parsley
- 8 cups cold water
- 1 tablespoon flour
- Mix the meat and rice in a mortar and crush with a pestle until a paste is formed.
- Then knead this mixture with your hands for 5 minutes.
In a large salad bowl, mix the meat with the 8 cups (2l) of cold water and stir until the mixture is perfectly homogeneous.
- Heat the oil in a Dutch oven and brown the onion over medium heat.
- Add the pepper and tomato and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring very regularly.
- Add the flour to this sauce and mix well for two minutes.
- Add the mixed meat and rice that was dissolved in cold water.
- Cook for 15 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Finally add salt, oregano and parsley.