Here are some details regarding the food, people and locations covered in the recent Paraguay episode of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” (original air date, October 12th). I have included further resources for those interested in delving deeper into Paraguay’s history and culture. Note: Some of the screenshots from this episode are from the Behind the Scenes Tumblr for “Parts Unknown.”
I share some details of the foods, people and places included in the recent episode of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” focused on Paraguay (which premiered on October 12). I have included links and additional information for those who want to delve even further into the history and culture of Paraguay. Note: some of the images in the episode come from the Behind the Scenes Tumblr of “Parts Unknown.”
This diner is one of Asuncion’s a most emblematic eateries. As Bourdain aptly puts it, “Lido Bar in Asunción has always been like the central switch board, a gathering place.” Anyone who has celebrated a major football victory at the bar or protested a major foul-up by the government at the Panteón de los Héroes across the street will agree. The food is great (with epically large portions) and watching the waitresses swirl around in their 50s era orange outfits is a spectacle all of its own. On page 132 of my guidebook I provide some tips for how to best nab a seat at the counter during the busy lunch hour.
This is one of the most emblematic establishments in Asunción. As Bourdain explains, “Lido Bar in Asunción has always been like the telephone exchange, a meeting place.” Anyone who has celebrated a soccer victory in their bar or protested a government mistake in front of the Pantheon of Heroes across the street will agree with this description. The food is excellent (and the portions are gigantic) and watching the girls spin around in their orange 1950s uniforms is quite a sight in itself. On page 132 of my tour guide I give some tips on how to get seated during the lunch rush hour.
Empanadas de Carne
Cheap and easy to eat, empanadas are every backpacker’s staple. “Carne” (beef) is by far the most popular and widely available filling, followed by “jamón y queso” (ham and cheese). For a more Paraguayan flavor try one filled with “palmito” (heart of palm) or order an “empanada de mandioca” which is made with a pillowy soft manioc (yucca / cassava) dough and a ground beef filling. As you can tell in this episode, Lido’s empanadas are particularly enormous. Check out more of Paraguay’s fried delights in this past post .
and easy-to-find Beef Empanadas are a backpacker staple. The meat ones are the most popular, followed by the ham and cheese ones. If you want to try a more Paraguayan flavor, you can order a palm heart empanada or a manioc empanada, which is made with a soft cassava dough and filled with ground meat. As you can see in this episode, the empanadas at Lido Bar are huge. Here I talk about the other delicious fried foods that are eaten in Paraguay .
Where some people see crumbling facades, others see beautiful remnants of a bygone era. The buildings shown in this episode include the Palacio de los López (Presidential Palace), the Panteón de los Héroes, and several of the old mansions along Avenida Mariscal López. Fortunately some of the city’s most beautiful buildings have been well-maintained and others are undergoing restoration. If you’d like to check them out take the Asuncion walking tour listed on page 118 of my guidebook. Photographers be warned though, the city´s above ground power lines can make it hard to get a clean shot (that’s what Photoshop is for)!
Some will see decaying facades, while instead others see memories of the days of yore. Fortunately some of the most beautiful buildings in the city have been well preserved and others are being restored. If you would like to see them you can do the “walking tour” that I include on page 118 of my tour guide. The buildings seen in this episode include the Palacio de los López (the Presidential Palace), the Pantheon of Heroes, and several of the large houses that still exist on Avenida Mariscal López. A word of caution for photographers, it can be quite difficult to get a shot without the ANDE wiring coming out (that’s what Photoshop is for).
Copetín San Miguel
Paraguay’s “copetín” culture means an affordable and tasty home cooked meal is almost always right around the corner. The “copetín” is a small restaurant which generally serves up lunch, dinner, and late night beers. Some places have daily specials or “menu del dia.” Your local copetín will be a great source of food, as well as offer a fun venue for practicing both Spanish and Guaraní .
A large steak with fried or sautéed onions and one or sometimes two runny eggs on top. My personal favorite is from El Viejo Rincón in Piribebuy. You can really never go wrong with this dish (unless you are a vegetarian, in which case I recommend reading the tip for Vegetarians in Paraguay on page 96 of my guidebook).
“Welcome Foreign Brother”
This classic “guarania” by Carlos Sosa caps off the episode. As the guests at the barbecue point out, this is a welcome song for foreigners visiting Paraguay (the translated title is “Welcome Foreign Brother”). I had never heard this song before but I now love it because it does such a wonderful job of capturing how friendly and inviting Paraguayans are.
French Immigration to Paraguay
The French Gen website has a number of links with information regarding Paraguay’s french immigrants . And for information on the Nuevo Burdeos colony in Paraguay you can also check out the previously mentioned “Une Colonie Francaise Au Paraguay: La Nouvelle-Bordeaux” written by Guido Rodriguez Alcalá and Luc Capdevila (note: it is in French).
A surprising number of historic records of baptisms, marriages, and deaths from the Paraguayan Catholic Church have been digitized and are available for free at Family Search . Most are not key word searchable so if you are looking for a specific person it is essential to have a date range to work with. Fortunately the digitized archives are very easy to zoom in which can help when trying to decipher ornate old timey hand-writing.