Monday, 27 October 2008

Guinea Pig

When you think of guinea pigs, the first thing that pops into your head is cute, fluffy things that little kids keep as pets. In Peru, guinea pigs (or cuy) are still cute and fluffy, but they're also considered to be something you cook up for dinner.

I'd read about eating guinea pig before heading off to Peru. I always like to try out as much local food as I can when travelling. Thinking I probably wouldn't come across guinea pig anywhere else in the world, I ordered cuy for dinner one night at a restaurant in Puno. One of my friends on the trip was crazy enough to order it as well. It was a modern, cool, upmarket type of restaurant, so we thought we'd be in safe hands.

After a bit of a wait, the guinea pig came out. It was served whole, flattened out on the plate and didn't look particularly appealing. We were getting looks from the other side of the table as if to say "are you really going to eat that?". The whole dining experience wasn't really optimised by one of our dinner party pointing out that you could still see the guinea pig's teeth.

My theory is that the restaurant staff bring the guinea pig out whole, just to get a bit of amusement in watching gringos like me try to eat it. After I'd had a bit of a go at it with my knife and fork, one of the waiters came over and asked if we'd like it cut into pieces. "Great idea" I thought.

Soon the guinea pig came back in more manageable pieces. It had been deep fried whole. Although I'd been told you were supposed to eat the skin, it was like lino and I would have been at the restaurant for the next week if I'd attempted to eat all the skin. The guinea pig on my plate was a pretty lean one, and there was hardly any meat on it at all. It didn't take long before we both gave up on the guinea pig and focused our attention on the vegetables on the plate, which were looking more mouth watering by the minute.

So the guinea pig didn't turn out to be a particularly filling meal and we headed off to the local supermarket late at night in an attempt to find a bit more dinner. Along with the enormous plate of tripe which I randomly ordered off a menu written in Swahili when I was in Nairobi, guinea pig is one of those local foods that I'm not in a big hurry to track down again. But I'd rather be trying guinea pig than lining up at the local McDonalds - it's all part of the travelling experience.


Sarah said...

Yeah I concur- no point in going somewhere just to do and eat exactly the same stuff you have at home!

Do you think that one was just badly cooked, or would you say it's just not that great a food?

food bling, Brisbane said...

Apparently the only way they are cooked in Peru is by deep frying them.

Both the ones that we had that night were pretty much the same - I think we just got skinny guinea pigs.

Our tour leader told us that the locals have a competition to find a specially shaped bone in the guinea pig's head when they eat them. I wasn't that keen to go exploring for special bones, believe me.

Sarah said...

Lol no the fact it had a head would have been freaky enough without having to play games with it!

natascha said...

Actually, there's a lady here in on the Sunshine coast in QLD who breeds them for eating. Quite popular, although I can't bring myself to try them. Too rodent like for my liking.