Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Cultural Bit: Guinea Pigs

A lovely appetizing leg and claws on your plate.
What's the strangest thing you've ever eaten? I would say mine is cuy (guinea pig). Although, in countries like Ecuador and Peru this is nothing strange at all. 
Cuyes are raised by many families here, especially out in the campo(farmland). For special events and celebration, like birthdays, it is common to eat cuy

Now it's also part of tourist activity and cuy can be found at many restaurants in the center. This can also be very pricey, as you can imagine. See tips below!

Cuy castle...the most impressive one I've seen!

The following article by Alastair Bland (NPR) is an interesting read about the ecological effects of raising cuyes. Here's his conclusion:

"There's a clear cultural prejudice against eating guinea pigs, and rodents in general, in the United States," Miller says. "But finding ways to reduce our carbon footprint is a good idea, and so is eating small livestock, like guinea pigs."

I recommend reading the whole article here: 
From Pets to Plates: Why More People Are Eating Guinea Pigs

Thoughts and Tips 
While I don't eat much meat, I didn't mind the taste of baked cuy. The skin is tough and rubbery but the meat on the inside is tender. It's such a small animal, so it doesn't have a whole lot of meat. Also, be warned that it's served with claws and head, as in the picture at the top. 

Taking my parents to try liked it but it turns out mom's not a fan.
Since cuy is part of the culture in the campo, my favorite experience was going to a birthday celebration with my roommate to the farm where her family lives. If you're going to try something new, might as well get as close to the authentic experience as possible. It would be even better if you can help prepare the meal to see the whole process!

If you really want to eat authentic cuy, I would suggest taking a bus a little outside of Cuzco to Tipon. They are known for their typical oven-baked cuy, served with pasta and potatoes. And it's much more fun to have that authentic cultural experience.

While in Ecuador, I was eager to try cuy so I found a market and asked around for it. There was a place that had it for a reasonable price but it was disappointing, to say the least. I'd recommend not looking for this delicacy at a market.

It's part of the culture here, and they usually want to share it. So try it out, ask questions! 

Would you try cuy? What's the strangest plate you've tried?                     


  1. Mmmm... I love cuy-- so good! I miss the food from Ecuador.

  2. Yea, not a bad rodent to eat! I miss the desserts from Ecuador :D