In many countries, guinea pigs are often popular pets. Especially in North America, where they are fluffy, cuddly, and docile pets. They are also loved in Peru. But it could be said that here they are one more ingredient of our delicious dishes. Their function is like that of cattle, they are raised to be eaten. In the Andes, where they originate from, they are known by the name of Cuy. And while it may be a bit impressive to eat one of these friends, they are truly delicious. That is why precisely with our Machu Travel Peru team, we want to tell you everything about this majestic and delicious Andean dish. And for this, we have prepared an article where we delve into what is the Cuy.
Everything you need to know about the Cuy
- About the Cuy
- Andean tradition
- History and culture of Cuy
- Preparing the Cuy for eat
- Different recipes
- How to eat the Cuy
ABOUT THE CUY
Cuy is the way to call the guinea pigs in Peru. Unlike other places in the world, we do not usually have them as pets. But it is a delicious delicacy that is eaten throughout the country. This dish is best served with potatoes and traditional sauces. It is a traditional food that is usually served on special occasions since the times of the Incas. In the beginning, guinea pigs weren’t pets at all. In reality, within the Andean tradition, these small animals were always used as food. Since the times of the Incas, these were roasted for their delicious and popular meat.
These guinea pigs were domesticated by the indigenous people of the Andes for thousands and thousands of years. The Cuy continues to be an important part of Peruvian gastronomy in the mountainous regions of Peru and Ecuador. It is in these regions where they are domesticated as livestock for consumption. It is one of the most emblematic dishes of Peru. Fortunately, these cute rodents do not require as much space and are perfect for raising alongside other crops.
Remember that customs and traditions are different in each country and region of the world. Just as in other countries they eat dogs, in ours we eat guinea pigs. Once the impression factor is passed, it is a truly delicious dish. These guinea pigs do not live in the wild and are raised on different farms.
Eating guinea pigs is such a tradition within Peru that an estimated 65 million guinea pigs are consumed annually. You can even find this delicious traditional Peruvian food within the most popular festivals in the highlands. There is also a Cuy holiday, where this little creature is celebrated. 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.
It is also a tradition to give a pair of guinea pigs to newlyweds, children, or guests. But this gift is to raise them in the same way that chickens are raised. They are raised at home for consumption, not as pets. Although it is also common to see children fond of these cute animals.
HISTORY AND CULTURE OF CUY
The delicious meat of the Cuy was an important part of the pre-colonial diet in Peru. Even long before European colonizers introduced chicken, pigs, and cows to South America. And this tradition has continued to this day. The Incas are believed to have domesticated the 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.
It was commonly enjoyed by the Inca nobility, it was even used to predict the future or as a sacrifice. A very famous religious painting in the Cathedral of Cusco, shows Jesus and his disciples sharing a delicious guinea pig dinner. 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.
PREPARING THE CUY FOR EAT
Cuy, 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. It is usually served whole and can be prepared in a variety of ways. It can be fried, roasted, 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, a flattened fried guinea pig is called “Cuy Chactado” and it is usually one of the most popular ways to prepare it. The Cuy Chactado is crushed under two stones and then fried. Some Guinea pigs, however, are raised on an exclusive diet. These are the Gourmet Cuy, which are fed exclusively with alfalfa to make their meat even more tender and tasty.
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. In Cusco and Arequipa, you will find restaurants specialized 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 specialized 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 Cuy dishes.
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 well known for specializing in 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. This recipe alternative is typically served with potato and nickname. 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.
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 Cuy 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 (Cuy)
- 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, ground peanuts.
- Place the mixture in the pan and cook for a few minutes.
- Cut boiled potatoes into slices and serve the Cuy on a plate and drizzle the sauce.
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 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, the spicy Cuy 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 Cuy 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 Cuy 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.
HOW TO EAT THE CUY
In general, it is traditional to eat the Cuy 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 pig 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.
“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 Cuy. Indulge yourself and try this emblematic Peruvian dish.