Eating Guinea Pig in Peru

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As I slowly made my way down the steep and slippery laneway, I wasn’t going to let the rain or sore legs keep me from my celebratory meal – eating guinea pig in Peru.

I was in Aguas Calientes, a pretty town used as a base for visiting Machu Picchu, and that morning I’d spent a few hours exploring the ‘lost city of the Incas’ wondering how the Incas were able to bring the heavy granite rocks up the steep Andean mountainside, and whether aliens had given them a helping hand.

I found a restaurant that ticked all the boxes. Not only was guinea pig (pronounced kwee) on the menu, but so were a host of other local and Andean dishes such as papa rellena (stuffed potato), guiso de frejoles (beans stew), locro de zapallo (a hearty thick pumpkin stew), and the international staple……pizza.

Despite the allure of a medium Margherita with anchovies (is that wrong?), it was the guinea pig that I had come for.

Guinea Pig on the Menu

Given the relatively small size of the critter, guinea pigs are generally cooked whole. This restaurant offered ‘Cuy Al Forno’, which is baked in the oven, and ‘Cuy Chactado’ which is pan-fried in lots of oil to produce a crunchy finish. On the streets, cuy is often cooked on a rotisserie over coals.

I ordered the Cuy Chactado along with a glass of Peruvian Malbec.

Guinea Pig Beauty Pageant

Eating guinea pigs in Peru, and other neighbouring countries such as Ecuador, Bolivia, and Columbia, has been around for thousands of years. In these countries, guinea pigs are not kept as pets and are bred specifically for the plate.

There’s even a national guinea pig day in Peru (the second Friday of October for those who would like to celebrate), as well as many festivals throughout the country commemorating the furry critter. And according to this article, these celebrations include beauty contests for the best dressed and biggest rodents.

Back at the restaurant, and after a little wait, my impressive-looking plate of guinea pig (it won first prize in my beauty contest) had arrived at the table, as had my second glass of malbec, or was it the third? My favourite Spanish phrase is ‘una mas vino tinto por favor’ which means ‘one more red wine please’ and I never waste an opportunity to practice.

The guinea pig had been cooked whole, cut up into more hand-holding manageable pieces, and served traditionally over yellow Andean potatoes alongside a simple ‘salsa criolla’ made up of peppers, onions, and chillies marinated in lime juice and topped with cilantro. A small ramekin of chilli sauce rounded out the dish. 

Oh, and a retro style garnish with one olive sitting randomly on top.  

Eating the guinea pig is purely a hands-on affair. It must be as it would be impossible to extract all the flesh using standard utensils. 

The golden skin was crispy and tasted of salt and garlic. The flesh around the body and thighs was as juicy as it could be for the smaller size of the creature. Extracting the flesh from the head took a little more effort and as is quite often the case with animals served whole, the small amount of meat from the head was delectable.

What Does Eating Guinea Pig Taste Like?

And what does eating Guinea Pig taste like? The flesh is inoffensive white meat like chicken breast, frog legs, and rabbit. But the crispy salty skin sends this dish to the next level. It was simply delicious.

The only issue was that there wasn’t enough. Luckily the potatoes and salsa helped fill the void.

After finishing the plate, I looked upwards to the steep and slippery hill heading to the hotel with slight dread. The waiter arrived and asked if I wanted dessert. I politely declined the offer but decided the uphill trek could wait a bit longer.

‘Una mas vino tinto por favor’

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