At a dinner last week, a few friends were discussing the weirdest food they had ever eaten. There were a few of the usual suspects (grasshoppers, cobra blood in alcohol, fugu fish) and a few rarer “treats” (deep fried witchetty grubs stuffed into an apple so they looked like they were crawling out of the fruit. Ok, not very appetizing but I have to admit I was intrigued. Hey, they apparently taste like peanut butter!)
My list included a rare find – fat scrapped off the ovaries of a hibernating snow frog, a dessert delicacy in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong – I’m still not sure how or why anyone found that one out!
But it also included something I thought would be considered fairly mainstream in today’s world of weird and wonderful food – roasted guinea pig. Apparently, however, eating a little furry creature that a lot of people primarily keep as pets is still a bit odd. Oops!
Still, in the platetrotting spirit, I figured a post on my first and only edible encounter with a guinea pig was long overdue.
The time – Spring 2013. The place – a cosy courtyard restaurant in Cusco, Peru called PachaPapa. The highlight? Cuy. Or to the English speaking world, guinea pig.
Guinea pigs are native to the Andes and originally were domesticated and consumed during ceremonial meals but due to the fact that they breed rapidly (like most in the rodent family), don’t take as much space to rear as a cow or a real pig, and can be easily maintained in an urban setting, their popularity as a source of food spread from the Andean highlands to many cities in South America, particularly in Peru and Bolivia.
The meat is very lean and low in cholesterol and could be likened to a mix between rabbit and lean pork, so it’s also pretty healthy.
Now, I am not a heartless pet eater. I draw the line at cats and dogs, I don’t think I could eat one and look my pets in the eye with a clear conscience again. And, to be honest, the very first time I had heard about guinea pigs being eaten in South America, I thought the whole idea was very strange.
But that was a long time ago…
In 2013, the idea of eating a guinea pig seemed fantastic. And truth be told, it was.
Those who are a little squeamish may not wish to look at the guinea pig in its butchered but not-yet-roasted form, they do look a little helpless.
The guinea pigs at PachaPapa were marinated in a chimichurri-like sauce and popped straight into a hot wood burning oven.
The result was a very tender pork-like meat (maybe that’s why they are called pigs?) that I would very happily eat again.
Best enjoyed with a glug of corn beer or chicha morada (a drink made from unfermented, sweetened purple maize juice), roasted cuy was one of the culinary highlights of my trip to South America.
Lovers of all things cute, please don’t judge me!
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