Today, we are headed to Paraguay for a tortilla paraguaya, which should not be confused with Mexican tortilla! The famous Mexican tortilla, a pillar of Mexican and Central American cuisine is a kind of crepe prepared from nixtamalized corn flour.
Paraguayan tortilla is actually … a kind of cheese omelette! It can be prepared quickly and with very few ingredients. Its particularity is based on the cheese that is used to prepare it: queso paraguayo, also called kesú paraguai in Guarani.
Tortilla paraguaya and kesú paraguai
Tortilla paraguaya is present on all tables in Paraguay! It is consumed throughout the day, whether for breakfast or as a snack, accompanied by a salad of red beans or cheese. In some parts of Paraguay, tortillas do not have a perfectly round shape. Indeed, it is traditional to turn the omelette over, not with a spatula, but rather with your hands, which makes the shape of the omelette quite irregular.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact origins of this omelette. But the introduction of kesú paraguai (queso paraguay) in its preparation makes it very special! The word queso means cheese in Spanish (kesú inm Guarani), while paraguai refers to the country Paraguay in Guarani, the local indigenous language.
Queso paraguayo consists of two dairy products: whole milk and curd. It is a fresh cheese without a rind, made from milk or whey, and which has not fermented. This cheese is particularly rich in protein. It goes back to the Paraguayan War between 1864 and 1870, which opposed Paraguay and the Triple Alliance (Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay) and resulted in heavy losses (400,000 deaths in total). At that time, food was scarce and difficult to find. That’s why Paraguayan cuisine is based on protein-rich and calorie-rich foods.
How is queso paraguay prepared?
This typical cheese is prepared in three stages: the preparation of the rennet, the preparation of the curd and finally the preparation of the cheese itself.
Rennet is a coagulant of milk of animal origin extracted from the abomasum (the fourth stomach) of young ruminants. It consists of active enzymes called chymosin and pepsin and is used to coagulate the milk, which is a necessary step to make cheese.
The curd is a solid product, derived from milk by precipitation of its caseins under the effect of an acidic substance and/or rennet. Several other cheeses made from curds are widespread around the world. You probably know about quark cheese from which the famous German cheese Käsekuchen is made? Or French faisselle cheese? Or cottage cheese? The curd is used as a base in some white cheeses. Leben, a cheese that is popular in Syria and Lebanon, is also made from curdled milk. It is served with za’atar, a local aromatic herb that is similar to thyme. Also, kefir is a drink that is the result of the fermentation of milk.
Traditional Paraguayan cheese is usually eaten with pepper, salt and aromatic herbs. It is a fresh cheese that does not have a pronounced taste compared to most French cheeses for example.
History of omelette
Omelettes are very popular in Spain and Latin America! In Spain, tortilla de patatas is a thick omelette variety made from potatoes. In some areas, onions are often added. This tortilla is very famous in Spanish bars. It is served in triangular portions, in the form of tapas, or in a sandwich called bocadillo. This potato omelette is often likened to the “dish of the poor” because during the war, eggs were rare and expensive. Until today, Spaniards prefer plain omelettes to potato omelettes for this reason.
The French omelette is also consumed in Paraguay. It is called tortilla francesa or tortilla de huevos, because it is plain. The word omelette goes back to the middle of the 16th century in France: it is mentioned in 1393 in the culinary book Le Ménagier de Paris, which uses the term alumella and alumette to discuss it. The term omelette appears only in the bourgeois kitchen in 1784.
Let’s hope this has piqued your interest and made you hungry at the same time! I urge you to try this simple recipe that will definitely be a change to your breakfast routine.
Enjoy your meal !
- 2 eggs
- 6 oz. Paraguayan cheese (queso paraguay), grated
- 2 scallions , chopped
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup flour
- Sunflower oil
In a bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs, then add the grated cheese and scallions.
- Add the flour and milk and beat until obtaining a semi-liquid preparation.
- Heat oil in a skillet.
Pour small amounts of the mixture to form tortillas of about 4 inches (10cm) diameter.
- Cook on one side then turn over and cook on the other side.