In many countries, guinea pigs are often popular pets. Especially in North America, where they are considered 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 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
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 could even be considered 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.
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.
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. This is even 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 usually offered on many 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.