Xipa Xips

In food, restaurant on 04/18/2009 at 7:53 pm

Our bird-watching friend took us on a trip to Paraguay this afternoon, via Williamsburg at Tipico BK. I have never given a thought to this country or its cuisine, but said friend lived there for a stretch and has a thing for the local treats. What she described sounded like cheese on a bagel.

Chipas are a category of “cakes” to eat while sipping on a silver-embellished, dried lacquered gourd filled with yerba mate. Chipa Barrero is a snack sold at soccer games like Cracker Jacks, or on the streets carried on vendors’ heads. It’s basically cheesy bread, falling somewhere between a bialy and a dense chewy cookie. The shapes vary. They’re good for dunking into hot liquids. We had circular ones made fresh and very stingily parsed out by our waitress/hostess. The Guaranis (natives) in Paraguay also call it cunape, or xipa.

The bread of this cheese bun is made of corn flour or cassava. Paraguay is like alt-Europe. Their staples are non-wheat products (perfect for Celiac disease sufferers) and non-addictive alt-caffeine herbal teas packed with vitamins, natural goodness and buzz. They are totally crunchy granolas.

Tipico BK is all cute hipster ambience, on the outskirts of the super trendy Bedford Street strip of cafes and boutiques. I enjoy the flea markets where the vintage ware meets artsy trinket maker. There’s a patio in the back of the restaurant with a hammock and teeny tiny tables fit for supermodels or Smurfs. We sat inside with the native knick knacks – giant lace doilies, painted sombreros, and woven hand fans.

After we conveyed to the waitress that we wanted the real-deal native food experience, she ponied up the chipas platter and empanada trio. I was really looking forward to some nice morcilla (aka boudin aka soondae) but they had replaced it with the more mainstream entree of roast pork loin in yerba. Our bird-watching friend promised to take us to a more authentic bakery in Sunnyside soon. But for loitering time and feeling über-trendoid, this place is tops. I was also hoping to catch a glimpse of Kari Ferrell, but alas, no such luck.

The other two types of chipas on the mixed plate were chipa guasu – a corn quiche or Spanish tortilla without potatoes, and sopa paraguaya, which is more similar to a Yorkshire pudding or polenta cake. I didn’t much care for either variety as much, lack of texture. I did also enjoy the house hot sauce, made from a base of Serrano peppers.

Chipa Barrero
5 cups cassava or tapioca flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 1/4 cup butter or lard
8 eggs
5 cups grated white cheese
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp anise powder

Sift starches into a large bowl. Add eggs and butter, mix well. Add salt, milk, anise and cheese. Knead dough until smooth. Cover and set aside to rest for ten minutes. Roll out dough into bagel-sized rings. Roll lightly in corn meal before baking.

Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, until lightly browned.

git your chips hurR!

Yerba Mate is a plant with leaves like a rubber tree. The fresh brew that comes in a teabag tastes like wet grass. To me, it’s right up there with chewing betel nuts, but without the carcinogenic benefits. One of my co-workers in Chicago from the South American region sipped it from a silver flask through a straw, letting the herb steep all day. Gauchos mainline it to stay awake while wrassling the cattle. Guys get together and shoot the bull while passing around the juice. It’s a way of life. I don’t get it.

Today, I tried mate cocido, Grandmother’s ‘secret recipe,’ which is a roasted version of standard yerba, like hojicha, the roasted twigs used to make a strong Japanese tea. But instead of intensifying the grassy flavor, the cooking actually mellowed out the leafy acquired taste and it ended up tasting like an adult chai, sans the spices. There’s a youtube video which shows a native toasting sugar in a pot by putting hot charcoal wood chunks in and stirring it around. Then he adds a boatload of yerba and more burning hot charcoal chunks. Without a strainer, he uses a tourist’s sweaty sock as a filter for more added natural flavorings.

Mate Coccido Procedure: In a pan put ~6 tablespoons of lose yerba mate and ~3 tablespoons sugar, mix together. Let the sugar turn golden brown. Take off stove and pour around 2 cups of water over the yerba and sugar  (less water to make the cocido stronger). Steep for 5 minutes. Strain into mugs and add more sugar and milk to taste.

grassy carbonation

  1. Hi nice blog 🙂 I can see a lot of effort has been put in.

  2. I love this blog!

  3. I wish I could write this well! great blog thanks.

  4. Spam luv is the BEST. keep it coming everyone!

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