While a guinea pig—called cuy in Spanish—may be a furry friend to visitors from North America or Europe, it is an important source of protein for many isolated communities where other forms of meat are hard to find, or just downright expensive. Even in Lima, Peru’s capital, diners at premier restaurants can be seen eating guinea pig.
Moreover, you can even see some of the religious artworks in cathedrals around Peru depicting the Last Supper scene, but the meal in front of Jesus is a dismembered guinea pig.
So, how do you eat guinea pig? You might ask. Let us share with you how to enjoy this traditional plate.
If you wish to try this part of Peruvian cuisine, there are several different dishes that you can look for on restaurant menus.
The most common, particularly in the parts of Cusco and Puno that cater to tourists, is cuy al horno (baked guinea pig).
Here, the guinea pig is split down the middle and grilled. It is often served with a side of potatoes and salad. Since guinea pig meat is somewhat tough, you’re meant to pick it up with your fingers and gnaw, spitting out the bones as you go.
However, if you’re not keen on tough, chewy meat, there are alternatives.
Other regions have trademark ways of preparing guinea pig, such as in a stew with eggplant in Cajamarca or fried with peanut sauce in Ancash.
In Cusco, you may also be able to find cuy relleno, or stuffed guinea pig, where the internal organs are removed and cooked with onion, ají and huacatay, then stuffed back inside the body cavity. All is then roasted in the oven with a bit of butter.
If you’re in Lima, you can sample a fusion-based take on cuy at the world-renowned Astrid y Gaston. Here you can try Peking guinea pig, where the meat is roasted like tender Peking duck. It is served with rocoto sauce and delicate crepes made of purple corn.
The Peking guinea pig is a popular item on their menu and tends to receive rave reviews, even from Cusqueña’s List of 50 Best Restaurants in Latin America.
Additionally, you can find the crispy fried whole guinea pig at Panchita in Miraflores. Or, if you’re in the mood for just a taste, you can try the crispy guinea pig legs for an appetizer at La Gloria.
This article has been revised and updated from its original publication on June 13, 2014.
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