Eating Guinea Pig in Ecuador
I don’t think anyone would disagree with the idea that travel has the ability to broaden one’s horizons. Travel has the wonderful ability to open up minds and help people to be not only more tolerant of others, but it also usually makes people more willing to step out of their comfort zone in order to experience new things.
This same thing happened to me. Ever since my first time eating snake, drinking snake blood, and eating fried spider in 2011, I always make it a point to try exotic dishes whenever it is possible.
During my time in South America, the two unique dishes that I tried were fried alpaca in Peru and guinea pig, also known as cuy, in Ecuador. The fried alpaca that I had for lunch in Cusco was delicious, and I could easily have had more. However, while alpaca was indeed tasty and tasted like most other animals, the guinea pig (cuy) was a bit of a different yet unique experience.
I had previously heard that it was possible to eat guinea pig while in the countries of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. When I was in Ecuador, I made it one of my goals to try guinea pig before I left. As far as I was able to tell, not many restaurants served it, so it took me a little bit of time to try and find a restaurant that served that particular dish. Through the magic of the internet and Google, I found the restaurant, Leña Quiteña, which is in Quito, that serves guinea pig. Luckily for me, it was quite close to my hotel. With jubilation, I knew that I had dinner plans set up for that night. I was going to have guinea pig (cuy).
Once I was seated with a beautiful view of Quito at Leña Quiteña, I looked on the menu and saw there were three choices of guinea pig. The first choice was an entire guinea pig, the second choice was half, and a third choice was a quarter. I opted for a half guinea pig since I was not sure what this would taste like, and I had no idea if I would like it. It killed me to think that if I ordered the entire thing and hated it, I would have wasted all that food.
After a little bit of time, the guinea pig arrived. It had been cut in half, but it was very easy to tell that it was definitely an animal since the paws could be seen along with the very discernible head. Admittedly, once my gaze rested on it, I did not feel as hungry as I thought, and I began to have some second thoughts. However, I had paid $17.75 for this, I was not about to let it go to waste. Plus, I had eaten stranger things during my travels, so this should have been a super easy one to deal with. With that, I took the knife and fork and began to cut into it.
Cutting into the guinea pig was not easy. The skin was quite rubbery and difficult to cut into, and it took a fair amount of effort, especially since the knife was not particularly sharp. Part of the reason for this aside from the lack of appropriate knife was the presence of thick fat under the skin. However, once I was able to cut off several pieces from the body, I tried them.
My first impression was that it was very chewy and greasy. In terms of the taste, in my opinion, it tasted like a mix between duck and fish with a fish taste being far more prevalent. It definitely tasted unique since it was not what I was expecting it to taste like. I was expecting it to taste like chicken, but it certainly did not.
If I have to be 100% honest, if I had to choose between alpaca and guinea pig, I would choose alpaca without a second thought. I found guinea pig to be far too chewy for my liking. However, I will say that once you got past the skin and fat, the inside was actually quite tasty. Of course, it still remained a challenge to cut, so there were a few times when I ditched the knife and ate it like a chicken wing. If someone saw me eating it without any utensils, I probably would have looked liked an uncivilized savage.
After about 45 minutes of eating and trying to get as much meat off as I could, I decided to call it quits. For one thing, I was actually getting tired from all the labored cutting, and the fish/duck-like taste just did not appeal to me that much. However, while I certainly did not pick the guinea pig completely clean, I think I made a good effort to finish everything. Thankfully, I did not go for the entire guinea pig. There is no way I would have finished it.
Overall, I am extremely grateful that I got to try guinea pig while in South America. It had been one of my travel goals while in the region, and it was definitely a rare treat. Guinea pig can now be added to the list of strange animals I have eaten during my travels.
Have you had guinea pig before? What did you think of it?