the day I ate guinea pig

Yesterday I finally ate guinea pig.

Around here we call it cuy, so I think that is how I will refer to it from now on in this post. It sounds more correct and less pet-like.

I have wanted and intended to eat guinea pig ever since I stepped off the plane in Lima. However, since my host mother provides me with a large lunch every day, and, therefore, I am usually not starving at supper time, I have had little reason, opportunity, or spare stomach space to eat cuy. So, on Saturday I decided to make it happen. I informed my host mother that I was planning to eat cuy either Saturday or Sunday and inquired which would be a better day for me to eat out. She responded that either worked for her. Saturday, then. She asked if I knew where I would eat it. I replied that I had a few different Cusqueñan restaurants in mind but was also considering taking the 45-minute bus to the town of Tipón, where the cuy is supposedly the best. Adela agreed that it was best to eat cuy in Tipón, but also that cuy was “more fresh” on Sundays. I settled on Sunday, then.

After breakfast I ventured forth to attempt to find a gym and explore the city. On my way to the Avenida de la Cultura, where I had heard a gym was located, I stumbled upon a plaza overflowing with a fair with stalls selling everything from furniture to plants to books to cakes to pets.

I wandered happily through it and even doubled back as I was about to leave to purchase the single longest, largest banana I have ever seen in my life.

The banana and I at home later on.


Beyond the everything fair I found another normal market and next to that, lo and behold, a market sort of place will semi-permanent stalls selling all sorts of traditional Peruvian food, including plies (literally) of cuy!
The place was packed with Peruvians consuming various delicious-smelling dishes.

During the rest of my exploring I did end up finding a gym (but who am I kidding; there’s no way I’m going to go there) and, more importantly to this cuy story, a church. The church’s name was Iglesia de Cristo, and as I was staring at its exterior wondering what denomination it would consider itself, a nice young lady came out and handed me some pamphlets. We talked for a few minutes, during which time I found out the church had one service on Sundays, at 11:00, and that they were showing the movie “Luther” at 5:00 that evening free to the public. I immediately determined to go to the movie to check out the church.

I went to the movie. The church seemed nice. There were four Americans! I spoke English to them! It was quite pleasant. I returned home (after eating some pastries at a pastry place I had also found, of course) planning to attend the 11:00 service the next day. Assuming the service ended at 1:00 and recalling that the bus to Tipón could take up to 45-minutes, I freely relinquished my plan to eat cuy in Tipón (I had never been thrilled at the idea of bothering to drive 45 minutes to eat cuy in the first place) and made up my mind to eat cuy in the market-like place I had discovered.

After church yesterday I walked home and waited around for about 30 minutes to make sure I was quite hungry. At 1:45 I set out. Arriving at the bustling food area, I was somewhat dismayed to discover that the piles of cuy were missing. In fact, after inquring around I found out that only a few restaurants had cuy. Perhaps it had all been eaten on Saturday. Who knows. Regardless, I found one of the stalls that had it and sat down at the communal table. I was served a plate with the back and head of a cuy, some noodles, two very dry potatoes, and a rocoto relleno (dough around a pepper stuffed with beef, onions, peas, and carrots).
I dug in. It was delicious! I liked the skin of the cuy, which was somewhat greasy and a little chewy, the best. I ate what was left of the ears. I took the head apart and found the meat around the jaw bone. It was fun! The meat itself was like dark chicken meat, only a bit more greasy and tastier. It did have a somewhat distinct taste, but I cannot describe it, unfortunately. Everything else except the dry potatoes was quite tasty, especially the rocoto relleno
And it only cost me S/13! I was rather pleased with myself for eating it in such an “authentic” location, too; I was the only white person in the whole place! I am so glad I have now eaten guinea pig. Next on the list: alpaca!

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3 comments

  1. The body parts of the cuy are indistinguishable to me! It looks……..interesting! Glad it was good. I think I would have preferred it in some sort of dark sauce so I couldn’t see it.

  2. Fascinating! I was going to mention the “pet” sort of thing when you first mentioned guinea pig, but refrained and now am glad because cuy presents a whole different picture in my mind. You are quite adventurous in both eating and exploring – what great stories for the future. (please let us know if alpaca as a meal is called something else because I have a picture of a wooly, big-eyed, cute llama-type animal in my mind). Love you lots, Grandma

  3. I am glad I could not recognize the little critter! I think it would have grossed me out. I was feeling a bit quesy as I read how you “opened up the head to get to the meat.” I agree with your grandmother that you definitely will have to add this to the list of stories to tell your kids and grandkids. Just make sure they don’t have a cuy as a pet when you tell them :)

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