Sopa Paraguaya… translated “Paraguayan Soup” is not in the least bit like soup. There are different renditions of how this delicious dish got his name, but from what I’ve heard, it went something like this…
Paraguay’s first president, Don Carlos Antonio López, was an obese man who enjoyed a white soup containing milk, cheese, egg, and corn flour. (I think you can guess where this is going…) Well one day, one of his cooks added too much corn flour to the soup. Don Carlos was sure to be furious that she had ruined his favorite dish. In an act of desperation, poured the mixture into an iron dish and put it into the tatakua (a rustic outdoor oven) to bake. When he was served his meal, President López tasted the new dish and thought it was delicious. Upon hearing the story, he promptly named it Sopa Paraguaya, a name that has stuck to this day. And the cook’s accidental recipe has become a much-loved dish in Paraguay.
Sopa is a favorite in the Wood household (both immediate and extended), and it tends to be the dish I’m asked to bring to cookouts and family gatherings (especially if that gathering also includes meat and rice… which most do). The recipe I have makes a 9×13 pan, a great size to share. When I make it just for us, I usually halve the recipe and bake it in my 6×8 pan. We usually eat over a couple of meals, or it also freezes and reheats well in the oven. (Mind you, it’s not that we wouldn’t eat a full recipe… but we might start looking a little like Don Carlos.) This isn’t diet food, but it’s a unique, delicious treat and for us, a taste of home.
This recipe contains fried onions, which is probably part of what makes it so moist and give the bread such incredible flavor. Start by chopping your onions and sauteing them until translucent and a little browned. Let them cool a bit while you assemble the batter.
Mix together the dry ingredients — the flour, corn flour (also called corn meal), and salt.
Add the beaten eggs to the milk and oil, the act of which will looked something very much like a lava lamp that I’m sure you had in your room at some point over the last few decades. Take a moment to feel nostalgic. Then move on…
Combine the wet and dry ingredients, the onions, and the grated cheese.
I almost forgot about the cheese *horrors!* so I added it in at the end. When it comes to cheese, in Paraguay most of the time you just buy “cheese.” Not a whole lot of options, at least when I was living there. So to be honest, I don’t know what kind of cheese would be closest to the original recipe. I use what I have on hand (which is usually cheddar), and it always tastes delicious.
This is a little bit more of the whole story… you might even understand why I almost forgot the cheese…
Don’t worry, no children were neglected or starved in the making of this sopa. She was fed, I promise.
Ahem, moving on with recipe…
Ok, so, I know you’re going to question me with these next instructions. But get over it. You’re making legit Sopa Paraguaya and this is how it must be done:
Pour a couple tablespoons of oil into your pan, and preheat it for 10 minutes. Then pour the batter into the pan. (Basically, you’re frying the edges of the sopa and it will create an amazing crispy texture. This is one of those recipes where people fight for the corner pieces!)
The sopa is done when it’s a nice golden brown. There will be all kinds of bubbling going on. Let it sit for a few minutes. The oil will seep into the bread. I’m not sure how you feel about knowing that. But like I said before, don’t question it. (And also, don’t eat the whole pan in one sitting. Just sayin’…)
Serve with empanadas, as a unique side dish at cookouts this summer, or enjoy as you would any other cornbread, with stews or chilis.
Cheesy Paraguayan Cornbread
2 cups onions, chopped
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
3/4 cup oil
1 cup flour
2-1/2 cups corn flour
2-1/2 cups grated cheese
2 teaspoons salt
Saute onions, set aside.
Beat eggs, milk, and oil together. Add dry ingredients, onions, and cheese.
Put 4 tablespoons oil in a 9×13 pan, and preheat for 10 minutes.
Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown and the center is set.
The oil will seep into the bread.