I am sharing you today a traditional Paraguayan soup called vori vori de pollo. It is a hearty, delicious, thick chicken soup with cornmeal and cheese balls. It is traditionally served during the cold months, to keep people warm.
This soup is a very common dish in the country, and it can be found across all regions. It is served during ceremonies, banquets, and family dinners so it is popular in every social layer of Paraguay.
This interesting and melodious vori vori name refers to the cheesy balls inside the soup. Vori comes from Spanish bolita (little balls). In the Guarani language, which is one of the official languages in Paraguay, repeating a word means two or more and is used as a way to indicate abundance. In some part of the country, the soup called bori bori, but please do not confuse this recipe with the Indian bori dish, which is dried dumplings made from black lentil.
These famous little dumplings inside the vori vori de pollo soup are made traditionally from cornmeal, water and queso paraguayo (Paraguayan cheese). Almost every family has its own recipe, some of them put spring onion or some herbs into the dough. What is common and essential is the cornmeal and the cheese.
Queso paraguayo is a cow milk cheese with high value in proteins. There are versions that are salty and some that are not so salty. The salty ones gives a characteristic taste to the dish. You can substitute this cheese with Parmesan or Grana padano, but it gives a totally different taste. Other substitutive ingredient is the ricotta but it will taste rather plain and simple, so if you end up using a cheese like ricotta, you should add a bit more salt. All alternative ingredients are good, but no doubt the best way to prepare the balls is with the original Paraguayan cheese.
The right quality of cornmeal has an important role in the dough as well. It should be extra fine cornmeal (also called corn flour) and not the coarsely ground one which is used for the polenta.
After you mix the ingredients for the ball, you should form them. The best ball size is about the size of a big grape. The balls should be cooked in the previously finished soup or plain salty water.
The second secret of the soup after the balls, is the quality of the meat. If possible, use not only chicken breast but legs (with bones and skins or without them) as well. The chicken breast is very plain meat without fats and connective tissues. The legs however contain a lot of both of them. These are the secret components which give taste and thickness to the soup during the cooking.
Do not forget about the umami as well. The best dishes incorporate this 5th flavor. Both the Maillard reaction (browning the onion and the meat) and the tomato provide the umami flavor and give an amazing taste to the soup. Please do not skip these steps and ingredients.
When this thick soup is ready, you should season it with freshly ground black pepper, and finely chopped spring onion.
I hope you will prepare the soup and will enjoy these South American flavors.
- 3 chicken breasts very thinly sliced
- 3 chicken thighs boneless, finely chopped
- 1 large onion , diced
- 4 scallions , sliced
- 1 green bell pepper , cut into small cubes
- 2 tomatoes , peeled, seeded and diced
- ½ lb pumpkin , cut into small cubes
- 1 carrot , cut into small cubes
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ teaspoon curry powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- Freshly ground pepper
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 cups corn flour (extra fine cornmeal)
- 5 oz. queso paraguayo (Paraguayan cheese) or fresh cheese, grated
- 3 quarts water (approximately)
- Heat the oil in a pot and sauté all the pieces of chicken until they are golden brown.
- Remove the chicken and in the same oil, sauté the onion, the scallions and the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, and mix well.
- Add the pumpkin, carrot and cook over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring regularly.
- Add the chicken, water, bay leaves, curry, cumin, and ground pepper.
- Stir well and adjust salt. Boil over medium heat for 45 minutes.
- In a large bowl, place the corn flour and cheese. Add about 2 tablespoons of the broth that is cooking and prepare a dough that will detach from the sides of the bowl. The dough should not be too hard.
- Form 1-inch balls and add them to the pot with the rest of the ingredients.
- The cooking of the vori vori is similar to that of gnocchi, i.e. as soon as the dumplings rise to the surface, they are ready.
- Turn off the heat and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.