Although the word “sopa” means soup in Spanish, sopaparaguaya is not soup, it is cornbread. Sopa is prepared with corn flour, onions, eggs, and cheese. As with chipa, sopa paraguaya is an important element of special occasions such as birthdays and parties. Fancy variations of sopa include using natural yogurt and beating egg whites, leading to lighter, fluffier sopa. One must be careful in making sure that the corn flour is fresh, as old corn flour can ruin a good batch of sopa.
Sidebar: Sopa paraguaya is so prevalent at weddings that asking someone Cuando vamos a comer sopa? (When are we going to eat sopa?) is code for When are you getting married?
Though its name implies otherwise, chipa guazu is not one of the variations of chipa. Rather, it is a variation of sopa. Instead of corn meal, whole corn kernels are used to make this cheesy corn souffle. Some prefer their chipa guazu baked until firm, while others like it crisp on top and soft and mushy on the inside.
Paraguayan cheese, known as kesu Paraguay or queso Paraguay, is an essential ingredient in traditional Paraguayan cooking. Without cheese, chipa would just be a corn bagel sopa would be plain old cornbread, and mbeju would be a starchy mess. When fresh, it is soft, white, and very bland in flavor. Fresh kesu is combined with either guava jam (dulce de guayaba) or molasses (miel de cana) as a dessert. It is often thrown into soups and combined with rice as well. Kesu goes from plain to pungent (sometimes awfully so) in a matter of days, becoming yellow, hard, and kind of greasy. In this state, it is ideal for inclusion in chipa, sopa, and chipa guazu. Most Paraguayans only eat cheese in queso paraguay form, as it is just about the only type of cheese available in the countryside.
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