1. Avocado is eaten as a fruit. Paraguayans like to sprinkle some sugar on top and eat it in its skin or in a smoothie with milk and sugar. This means they won’t eat it in a salad, or in their sandwich, or savor the all-time American favorite: guacamole. In fact, the day Jon and I made guacamole not one member of our host family tried it.
2. The preferred breakfast is white bread; there might be some dulce de leche or jam to spread on it. This means no eggs, no pancakes, no yogurt, no granola, no fruit, no cereal, no oatmeal, no French toast, none of it, just good old white bread. There is no need to get complicated so early in the morning, Paraguayans enjoy keeping things simple.
3. Red meat shall never be eaten with the slightest trace of blood. Once I showed Paraguayans images of how Americans like to eat their steak, they couldn’t believe what they were seeing and continuously shook their heads. Ironically, they love blood sausage, while Americans stay away from it.
4. Vegetables are chopped as small as humanly possible and you must not be able to see them in your food. Because of this one small green pepper is enough “vegetable” in a meal for 8 people. And for those of you who are vegetable averse, I repeat, don’t you worry, you will never find a side of vegetables with your meal if you come visit Paraguay (Ahem… Mark).
5. You can only find falafel in the capital, Asunción, and since Jon and I don’t live anywhere near the capital we fulfill our falafel cravings by making it ourselves, in our home.
We have been preparing our own falafel since the Seattle days and this has always been our go-to recipe. The key to making falafel is using pre-soaked dried chickpeas. Do not boil them or buy them in a can as this will cause the patties to disintegrate into nothingness when you fry them due to too high of a water content in the mixture. Trust me, I’ve been there.
My favorite way to eat falafel is in a pita sandwich with some tahini or tatziki sauce, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, and whatever else strikes your fancy. You can also eat it as a part of a salad on a bed of greens. Enjoy!
Falafel (from the cookbook Joy of Cooking)
Makes approx. 12 patties (depending on size)
1 1/4 cup dried chickpeas (rinsed and soaked overnight)
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 Tablespoons AP Flour (or other flour if you are preparing it gluten free)
1. Soak chickpeas over night in water.
2. In a food processor blend all of the ingredients together except for the flour.
3. Stir in the flour.
4. Let the mixture rest for 15 minutes.
5. Prepare patties the size of your liking, mine are usually between 1/8 and ¼ cup of filling each.
6. On medium heat, heat a small-medium frying pan with oil at least 1” deep.
7. Let the oil temperature reach 350F to 375F.
8. Test fry one patty in the oil. Flip the patty every couple of minutes if the oil doesn’t fully cover it. Within five minutes the patty should be perfectly golden brown. Remove from the frying pan and place on a paper towel lined plate.
9. Continue frying the rest of the patties, I usually do four to five at a time.