DESTINATIONS, Food, Peru, SOUTH AMERICA
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What I Really Think Of ‘Cuy’ & Why You Should Try It

To tell you the truth, I didn’t really have a clear train of thought or plan when I started this post. I was thoroughly enjoying a mango cheek when, for some odd reason, thought about  cuy – guinea pig in plain english.

DISCLAIMER: I will probably get a lot of negative responses to this post, so I want to make it clear that is purely my opinion. This post contains images that may offend some readers. If this is a topic that you might find offensive, please feel free to check out my other posts.

13th December 2012 was our third last day in Cusco, Peru. We had only returned from a gruelling – not to mention life changing – trek on the Inca Trail* the day before and we decided that we wouldn’t leave Peru until we’d tasted cuy. As a lot of you will know, guinea pigs are considered a pet in many countries – but not Peru. These bony animals are part of the traditional Andean cuisine, and an important source of protein in the Andes. It is typically served fried, barbecued on a spit, baked or roasted and accompanied with rice and corn on the side. Served whole – often with the head on – it can be a tad confronting when the waitstaff plants a plate of it in front of you.

We were walking hobbling around the San Blas district when we stumbled upon Restaurante Piedras y Carbon on Calle Choquechaca. There was only one other couple in there and as we sat down, I glanced at their table and noticed that they were eating the once fluffy creature. I looked away at that moment because if I kept looking, I probably would’ve walked right back out that stone driveway from which we entered.

The lovely waitress spoke very little english, so I ordered in the best Spanish I could muster: Quiero un cuy por favor.

The waitress walked out with our order about half an hour later:

"Cuy" (guinea pig) in Cusco, Peru

“Cuy” (guinea pig) in Cusco, Peru

We chose to have ours fried, but ours came with la papas y la ensalada. I will admit, it was very difficult to have that first crunchy bite. But once I was able to get my head around the fact that this was probably someone’s pet back home, I found it surprisingly pleasant with a gamy taste. It took a few bites for my tastebuds to get used to the texture of the meat.

I’ll be honest – this is a dish that I probably won’t have again, unless of course I find myself in the middle of the Andes with nothing else to eat. At least I can say that I’ve tried it and can comment on it from first hand experience.

Anyway, this post is a far cry from the mango cheek I had a few moments ago. And on that note, I shall have the other cheek.

*The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has recognised Qhapaq Ñan, an ancient Incan roadway, as a World Heritage site. More information can be found on the UNESCO or National Geographic websites.

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