In many countries, guinea pigs are often popular pets. Especially in North America, where they are fluffy, cuddly, and docile pets. However, the local population of their origin countries like Peru, Colombia Ecuador, and Bolivia usually raise them for consumption and not as pets. They gave him the name Cuy. And while it may be a bit impressive to eat one of these friends, it is truly delicious. That is why precisely with our Machu Travel Peru team, we want to tell you everything about this majestic and delicious Andean animal.
Everything you need to know about this famous Andean guinea pick
- The Cuy
- Cuy dish
- How to eat it
- What does the Cuy taste like?
- Where to buy Cuy
- Preparing the dish
- Different recipes
Cuy is the way to call the guinea pigs in Peru. Unlike other places in the world, Peruvian don’t usually have them as pets. But, they are not from Guinea and are not pigs, but they are more related to domestic rabbits. It is a small Andean rabbit, furry, and cuddly. They are native to the high Andean areas of Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Colombia. And, the Andean people raise them as cattle to consume and take advantage of their meat, rich in protein, besides being delicious. Because they don’t live in the wild.
The indigenous people of the high Andes domesticated them for thousands and thousands of years. Now, this little animal continues to be an important part of Peruvian gastronomy in the mountainous regions of Peru and Ecuador. Also, it is one of the most emblematic Peruvian dishes. Fortunately, these cute rodents do not require as much space and are perfect for raising alongside other crops.
Also, the typical Cuy dish is a delicious delicacy that is eaten throughout the country. The Peruvian serve it with battered potatoes, baked stuffed rocoto, and even noodles. Since the Incas times, the local people served it on special occasions. In the beginning, guinea pigs weren’t pets at all.
Remember that customs and traditions are different in each country and region of the world. Just as in other countries they eat dogs, in Peru they eat guinea pigs. Once passed the impression factor, it is a truly delicious dish.
The delicious guinea pig meat was an important part of the pre-colonial diet in Peru. Even long before European colonizers introduced chicken, pigs, and cows to South American lands. And this tradition has continued to this day. Some scholars affirm that the Incas domesticated tender guinea pigs for more than 5,000 years. So they have been part of Andean cuisine for a long time, and therefore it is a flagship dish of Peru. If you want to know in-depth tourism in Peru, you have to taste this fantastic dish.
In the Inca time, the nobility used to enjoy it. Even, the Inca priests used it to predict the future or as a sacrifice. Proof of that is that a very famous religious painting in the Cathedral of Cusco, The Last Supper, shows Jesus and his disciples sharing a delicious dinner, and the main dish over the table is a boiled guinea pig. In addition, there is even a very popular gambling game called Tómbola de Cuyes. This game consists of a circular area with several numbered squares. Players bet on the number box that the guinea pigs will enter. Whoever chooses the correct number will win a corresponding prize.
Being able to try this dish is one of the best things to do in Peru. It is also a tradition to give a pair of guinea pigs to newlyweds, children, or guests. This gift is in order to raise them in-house, like chickens, and then eat them. Not as pets. Although it is also common to see children fond of these cute animals.
In Peru, the population consumes around 65 million guinea pigs dishes annually and it is a tradition. You can even find this delicious traditional Peruvian food at the most popular festivals in the highlands. There is also a Cuy holiday, in which you’ll find contests for the best-dressed, biggest, and obviously best-tasting guinea pig. Peruvians even declared a national holiday every second Friday in October to celebrate this majestic animal.
Its name is due to the sound that the small animal emits: “Kew”, “Kew”, “Kew”. Of course, the guinea pig in Spanish food has no value since the Europeans did not adopt it. However, Peruvian gastronomy did welcome it very well. Now, you can find the meat of this animal well adapted in Novo Andina and Creole cuisine in the most recognized restaurants in Peru. Lima, the capital of Peru, has some of the best restaurants in the world, where you can eat the delicious Andean guinea pig in a sophisticated and unique way. We can mention Central, Astrid & Gastón, and Chicha restaurants.
How to eat it
In general, it is traditional to eat the Andean guinea pig with your hands. If you are in regions like Cusco or Arequipa, it is common to see the locals enjoying this dish with their hands. Eating guinea pigs in the traditional way is acceptable in any restaurant where it is served. In fact, you may get some confused looks at you if you try to eat it in some other way. It is advisable to have a packet of napkins on hand as things can get a bit messy. This delicious dish is served on special occasions. Especially if you are a guest of a local family. And it would be very rude not to try it. After enjoying the many tours in Peru, you can relax with this delicious Peruvian delicacy.
What does the Cuy taste like?
We can assure you that its flavor is unique and not unpleasant at all. Many diners, including us, affirm that its meat is similar to a tasty chicken, but with a firmer and greasy consistency. However, if you come from Europe, we can assure you that its flavor will be similar to a rabbit with more dark meat. Either way, its meat, and flavor will surprise you.
In addition, it is one of the meats with the lowest percentage of cholesterol and more protein. It is a clear example of biodiversity in Peru and the animals and products it offers. Of course, being a small animal, the volume of meat is low. But each bite will be unique!
Where to buy Cuy
In countries where this Andean guinea pig is considered a pet, its meat for human consumption is prohibited. However, in specialized meat and grill stores, you can find them. Of course, they will have to import the meat from Peru or from any other Andean country like Colombia, Bolivia, or Ecuador. By the way, if you are wondering What is the difference between a guinea pig and a Cuy? Well, the Andean Guinea Pig is not very different from the Guinea Pig of the United States or Europe. The only difference is the size, the Andean species is much larger, having been raised and fattened for human consumption.
Preparing the dish
This Andean guinea pig, as we mentioned earlier, is one of the flagship dishes of Cusco. And this one tastes very similar to that of a rabbit or a wild bird. The Peruvians usually served it whole and in a variety of ways; fried, roasted, or grilled, with rice, potatoes, corn, and hot sauce, among other things. The ways to serve it will depend a lot on the region where you are. For example, the Peruvians use to crush the guinea pig under two stones and deep fry it, obtaining the famous “Cuy Chactado”. It is usually one of the most popular ways to prepare it in Peru, especially in the southern city of Arequipa.
Many avant-garde chefs in Lima are going back to their roots with this famous dish. They even try to combine it with fusion food dishes like Nikkei cuisine. Instead of using smoked fish, they often use this charming rodent. These are the gourmet Andean guinea pig, which are fed exclusively with alfalfa to make their meat even more tender and tasty. Also, in Cusco and Arequipa, you will find restaurants specializing in this dish.
If you are passing through Peru and are looking to try this delicious dish, we recommend you go to a Cuyeria. A Cuyeria is a restaurant specializing in preparing guinea pigs. Although in the Picanterías and some Quintas, it is also possible to find any of these dishes. You can find anything from a fried version to a baked version. Each of these versions has its own cooking and preparation method. The way you eat the guinea pig will also depend a lot on your forms and manners. But it is worth following the example of the locals and their traditional ways. Cusco and its surroundings are one of the best destinations where you can find delicious Andean guinea pig dishes.
1. Cuy chactado (fried cuy)
The Cuy Chactado is the fried version of this delicious dish. In this alternative recipe, the animal is usually served crushed and without its head. Although there are other different versions of this recipe depending on the place you visit in Peru. Arequipa is the cradle of this dish. The real secret of this recipe lies in carefully washing and skinning the animal. Then it is seasoned and the meat is exposed to the sun for a few minutes. Potatoes and nicknames usually accompany the dish. Although it is also served with other companions such as Sweet Potato and Corn.
It is a fairly simple dish and easy to prepare. Even changing or removing ingredients like bell peppers, cumin, or cornmeal won’t make a big difference in taste. It is very common to accompany them with Salsa Criolla or Salsa de Huacatay to garnish their potatoes.
- Guinea pig
- Wash the guinea pig well.
- Prepare seasoning with pepper, cumin, and salt to later rub it in the Cuy.
- Bread the guinea pig in flour.
- Heat frying pan with hot oil.
- Fry the guinea pig and turn it from time to time.
- Serve together with potatoes and creole sauce.
2. Cuy al horno (Roasted Cuy)
This way of preparing the animal is one of the best known. It’s such a popular version that it attracts diners from all over the world. Its delicious smell comes from its preparation with Huacatay sauce. Served with golden or boiled potatoes, salsa Criolla, and a hearty portion on a plate. This is a national dish par excellence. Its exquisite flavor and its unique way of preparing guinea pigs made it a very popular dish.
Cusco is one of the best destinations to enjoy a delicious guinea pig dish. And if you are wanting to try this traditional dish, we recommend visiting the Imperial City. But don’t think that’s the only thing the city has to offer you. It cannot be denied that the gastronomy of Cusco is one of the best in Peru. And one of the most emblematic dishes is Cuy al Horno.
- Guinea pig
- Chile Panca
- Roasted and ground peanuts
- Green or yellow bell peppers
- Hard-boiled egg
- The garlic is minced and combined with salt, cumin, and pepper to make the main seasoning.
- The guinea pig is marinated in the seasoning and left to rest.
- Prepare the hot grill and put the guinea pig turning them from time to time.
- Boil the potatoes in a pot with boiling water.
- Chop peppers and mix with minced garlic and ground peanuts.
- Place the mixture in the pan and cook for a few minutes.
- Cut boiled potatoes into slices and serve the guinea pig on a plate and drizzle the sauce.
3. Picante de Cuy (Spicy Cuy)
Another wonderful way to groom this animal. It is a fairly popular dish eaten in all parts of Peru. A much more common dish in those Andean mountain regions, where it is prepared with its original recipe. It is a slightly more arduous and laborious recipe, so it requires time and patience. But the wait is worth it, as it is one of the most delicious dishes you will ever taste. And if we talk about historical dishes, this spicy guinea pig is one of the oldest. A dish with a lot of history since its ingredients and the combination of these have positioned it as a national dish.
It is also known as Cuy Colorado and it is a recipe that dates back to pre-Inca times. Native to the Peruvian Sierra, but over the years it spread throughout the entire country. Huancayo may be one of the best places to try the dish.
- Aji Panca
- Boil the guinea pig and save the broth.
- Prepare the spicy in a separate pot.
- Add oil, chopped onion, minced garlic, and let it brown.
- Then add the liquefied chili pepper, cumin, and pepper to the pot.
- Then the toasted peanut and guinea pig broth are added to it.
- The parboiled guinea pig is breaded and fried.
- After, the fried guinea pig is served along with golden or boiled potatoes. The hot sauce is served on top.
“ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE AND A GUINEA PIG!”
As you will see, this delicious dish is one of the many that you have to try during your stay in Peru. Especially if you plan to travel through the regions of Cusco or Arequipa. Together with the Machu Travel Peru team, we hope we have been helpful in explaining a little about the Cuy. We believe that the real challenge is in trying this delicious dish. Some may find it a bit strange to see your face and so on. But have no doubt that it is a delight like no other. And it is worth trying new things in Peru. And in case you are not a vegetarian, do not worry, since there are endless different alternatives to the Andean guinea pig. Indulge yourself and try this emblematic Peruvian dish.