Paraguay's Vorí Vorí de Pollo
A soulful chicken soup with small balls of corn and cheese.
Paraguayan food was perhaps my last big hole in my research into Latin American foods. It wasn’t for lack of interest, but I never quite seemed to find a way to the country. Despite being right in the middle of the southern half of the South American continent, it feels rather disconnected from its neighbors. It should not be overlooked, however, because it’s unique history and geography make it one of the most fascinating culinary destinations in the region.
Chef Sofia Pfannl and sommelier José Miguel Burga of the restaurant Pakuri in Asunción, who previously worked at Central in Lima, were kind enough to show me around. It’s one of several New Paraguayan restaurants in the city, all of which are seeking out long forgotten native ingredients and typical dishes and re-imagining how they can be used, as well as utilizing the intriguing local clay oven, the tatakua.
Paraguay’s national cuisine is a mix of Spanish and indigenous Cairo-Guaraní foods and recipes, but during the Paraguayan War, when food became scarce, recipes were adapted to become highly calorific, adding ingredients like corn flour, lard and cheese at every chance. I had a few chances to try Vorí vorí, maybe the most emblematic Paraguayan recipe, chipas aside. It is a simple, soulful recipe, primarily chicken broth with the addition of small balls of corn and cheese. I preferred Pfannl’s off-menu version at Pakuri that was lighter than the others.
They introduced me to the researcher and author Graciela Martínez (I later wrote about her in Saveur), who wrote Poytáva, a 300-recipe book that encompasses three decades of research Paraguayan foodways, and I think one of the most important contributions to Latin American gastronomy.
She explained the origins of the recipe to me. The recipe is a riff on the Spanish dish sopa de bolitas, which appeared in various forms throughout Latin America, such as Mexico’s sopa de bolitas de masa. In Guaraní, “bolita,” meaning “little ball,” is pronounced “vorita,” which was eventually just shortened to vorí. When a word is repeated in Guaraní, it means abundance, so a soup of abundant little balls.
The balls can vary slightly in size depending on the person making the soup. When they are especially small, they call them “tu’i rupi’a,” or “parakeet eggs.” In Poytáva, Martínez goes over different variations, such as the standard vorí vorí blanco below, and vorí vorí de gallina, with confit hen meat. The color of the soup can vary depending on the type of corn flour being used. In Paraguay, the dish uses the ever present queso Paraguay, a soft, mildly acidic cheese, but I;ve never seen it outside of Paraguay. You can swap it out for fresh white cheeses like whole milk ricotta or farmer’s cheese. Vorí vorí is typically made during the winter months.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to New Worlder to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.