The high-calorie mbeju is a staple of the Paraguayan and Northeast of Argentina diet. According to scholars of Paraguayan social history, the popular Paraguayan diet evolved as a result of the Paraguayan War in the nineteenth century. In the aftermath of the war, food supplies were hard to find. As a result, Paraguayan cooking developed highly nutritious meals to make up for the scarcity of everyday meals.
Origin of the name
The name "mbejú" (also written "mbeyú") means "cake" and comes from the Guarani language. Guarani is one of the two official languages of Paraguay, which defines itself as being bilingual and multi-cultural. The mbejú is bound to the Guarani mythology to be one of the most ancient recipes of this culture. Traditionally, there were about 16 ways to prepare it, although nowadays, 11 are recognized. Next to the chipá and the sopa paraguaya it is part of the so-called "tyra", a Guarani term for food consumed to accompany the "mate cocido", milk or coffee, or simply an addition to other dishes.
Traditional mbejú require starch, corn flour, eggs, pork fat, thin salt, fresh cheese and milk. The variety called "mbejú avevo" ("inflated cake") uses the same ingredients but with the pork fat, the eggs and the cheese in larger quantities. Another variant, "mbejú de fariña" substitutes manioc flour for starch.
The starch is sifted. Fat and the crumbled cheese are added and the mixture is whipped until creamy. Eggs, salt and milk are added as the whipping continues. Finally the starch and corn flour are added, mixing everything using the hands until a thick powder-like preparation results.
A greased frying pan is allowed to get very hot. A layer of the mixture of about 1½ centimeters is put into the pan, squeezing the borders with the back of a spoon. It is cooked for a few minutes, moving the pan so it cooks evenly without burning the center. Using the lid of the pan, flip the mbejú, finishing the cooking the same way as above.
- Ministry of Social Development (Presidency of Argentina): "Sabores con sapucay", Rescatando lo autóctono desde la historia familiar.
- Elichondo, Margarita: La comida criolla: Memoria y recetas. Popular Culture Library, Publications of EL SOL, 2003 (ISBN 950-9413-76-3) (Restricted online copy at Google Books)
- “Tembi’u Paraguay” JOSEFINA VELILLA DE AQUINO
- “Karú rekó – Antropología culinaria paraguaya”, MARGARITA MIRÓ IBARS