Monday, September 1, 2008

Destination Peru #11: The Cuy Finally

Restaurant Pachatuzan
Pachatuzan Road, Agua Calientes
$16 for the cuy

If any of you have talked to me about my trip already, you'll know that I got a chance to try guinea pig. In Peru, guinea pig, or cuy, is usually served for special occasions. From what the guide said, it sounded like the equivalent of a goose. How often do Americans eat goose except for special dinners around holidays? Well cuy is an Andean dish, so I waited to get into the mountains before selecting a restaurant. Many of the places in Agua Calientes serve it to the tourist clientele. I saw a few of them skinned and sold in the markets, but none alive. I chose Restaurant Pachatuzan because we had been to plenty of fancy places and this one looked simple and somewhat less frequented. They featured a large wood oven in the back for roasting many of their dishes. Soon after we sat down, the lights went out. But the owners were quick to bring out candles and resume service. It occurred to me that blackouts were probably not too uncommon.

My mother had the cordero a la parilla. Looking in my trust pocket dictionary, I realized that it was roast lamb. It was simple, no fancy garnishes, but according to my mom, a great dish.

My dad chose the trout because of its ubiquity. Apparently, it is a regional specialty showing up on most of the menus around town. The skin was crisp, but the fish lacked much flavor of its own. Every dish came with a side of thin fried potatoes.

Finally, my order came.

I was hoping to see the whole guinea pig comfortably lain with its paws tucked underneath like a whole roasted pig. Mine came spatchcocked, which makes sense from a cooking perspective, but lacked the dramatic effect. Well if anything, it certainly looked more grotesque. It didn't bother me to see a whole roasted rodent on my plate, except when it stared at me as I was eating it. I turned the plate around so I could eat in peace.

Well that's the presentation, but what did it taste like? To be honest, there was nothing unique or distinct about the flavor of the meat. The taste and texture bore a striking resemblance to dark meat chicken, although the skin was very elastic and chewy. Perhaps I just had a bad cuy, but I was disappointed. Besides the novelty, I don't really see the appeal.


Wandering Chopsticks said...

Haha! Finally, the guinea pig. I remember once in high school when I attended info day or something like that at U of Oregon. There was a Peruvian student who talked about some of the adjustment she had including how she loves eating guinea pig with chili peppers, but it's just not done here. :P

Anonymous said...

I visit Peru once a year. I have tried Cuy twice, once grilled and once fried. I won't eat one again! They are just too strange. Go for the Lomo Saltado, Cebiche, Pachamanca. Forget the Cuy. Checkout this site for Pachamanca in the US: Goldenpachamanca dot com.