First, a little catching up on foods from Brazil.
In Foz do Iguacu, our last city in Brazil and a border town with both Paraguay and Argentina, a whole new street food cropped up: pao de queijo, or cheese bread, at the insanely cheap price of 7 breads for 1 Real (50 cents US).
Very happy Tara with her bag of cheese breads, which were kind of like a cross between a cheese rock from Big Booty in NY (aka Colombian pan de yuca) and a popover.
Also, when we showed up for the night bus to Paraguay, we had about $3 US left in Brazilian currency, so Andy dashed across the street to a convenience store to spend it on random snacks. He came back with (l to r) knockoff peanut M&Ms (I had been craving the real ones bad, but they are expensive in Brazil), maracuja (passionfruit) ice cream, and Kuat, which is Coca Cola´s guarana soda, sold everywhere in Brazil.
The soda taste was kind of sweet and sour, and way too carbonated for me. Guarana is a rainforest fruit that is supposed to have naturally stimulating properties, kind of like acai...I don't know about that, though, since we both fell asleep as soon as we reclined our seats on the night bus.
OK, on to foods of Paraguay!
I had read in our guidebook about the many types of chipas, or cheese breads, in Paraguay, and after the tasty pao de queijo of Brazil I was eager to try one. So when we went out for breakfast in Asuncion, I ordered the chipa guazu, or cheese bread made with fresh corn.
Too bad it was not so much a bread as a gloopy, quiche-like substance. I despise quiche, and Andy had to laugh at the look on my face when they brought this out.
I did manage to force down about 3/4 of it, eating verrry slowly. The tutti frutti juice I ordered with it (kind of like a fruit salad smoothie) was fortunately much tastier.
Just in time to wash the taste of the chipa out of my mouth, we stumbled on a lady with a stand in the park selling tereré, which is the national beverage of Paraguay.
It is yerba mate tea served ice-cold with "digestive herbs," whatever those may be. Basically, you end up with a cup filled with green stuff floating in water...
...and you suck the liquid up through a filtered straw.
Then you refill, and refill, and refill from a giant pitcher of ice water. (Or, if you are Paraguayan, from your personal thermos of mate, which you carry around with you whereever you go. Seriously, we saw a stockist at a supermarket trying to fill the shelves with one hand and carry his enormous mate thermos with the other. Quite amusing.)
Note that mate accoutrement was for sale everywhere in Asuncion. I am sure that the kind of mate cup you use and thermos you carry says something important about you in many countries of South America...
I had told the lady that it was my first time trying mate, and she laughed and let us take pictures and tutored me through it, including grabbing my cup from me and sucking hard through my straw because I wasn't imbibing fast enough. (Ah, the hygiene observed in the shadow of all the H1N1 posters!). But I didn't want to be rude, so I just took it back from her and followed her lead until she was satisfied. Andy even tried some, but since it was strong and unsweetened he almost choked. Then he went off to buy our bus tickets and I chatted with the lady in my broken Spanish. Found out that she had 10 children; she asked why I didn't have any children yet, etc. while I drank my 18 more cups of mate.
Sufficiently caffeinated, I was ready for snacks. We found these at a shop; they were filled with guava jam and dusted with coconut, but mostly tasted like slightly stale butter cookies...not so great.
But we ate'em anyway. We've seen these since in Argentina, too.
Far better was this apple-raisin strudel Andy ordered in a pastry shop called Michael Bock. Not sure what makes this Paraguayan, but it was delicious!
What's this? A BAGEL??
Indeed, there seems to be a bagel-like bread product available in Paraguay and Argentina. It's eggy, chewy, and has caraway seeds in it. Possibly also has cheese in it, I can't really tell. In any case, I was quite happy when Andy bought me a bag of 5 of these at the Paraguay bus station for 50 cents US. (Once again, we were trying to spend the last of our local currency and ended up with some random fun snacks.)
That's all we've got for foods of Paraguay, but not bad for 33 hours, I think. We did buy a couple of cheap but disappointing filled churros on the street. Oh, and you'll never guess what we found at the supermarket in Asuncion...peanut butter! It was more expensive than in America, but far cheaper than the $7 jars of Skippy we saw in Sao Paulo. Plus, it was actually made in Paraguay. We tried it today, and it's very sweet. Maybe because the only two ingredients are peanuts and sugar. Anyway, we'll try to post a pic of the Paraguayan peanut butter with our next set of food pics.