Eatn

Published on August 2nd, 2014

10

The Requisite Ecuador CUY Dinner

If you’re a tourist in Ecuador, within days of your arrival you have two choices for tackling the (arguably) national dish – that cute little iconic “cuy” (guinea pig) critter:

1. Find a cuy stand and pause there gawking and snapping photos of the crispy brown hairless rodents roasting on a stick – whilst simultaneously muttering “Ick!”, “How barbaric!” “OMG, I’d NEVER be able to swallow even a BITE!”.

OR…

2. Likewise snap a bazillion photos of the poor creature spinning above the coals, and – enjoy nibbling the (decidedly spare, but nonetheless succulent) “chicken-like” flesh of this South American delicacy.

Either way, the scenes above normally take place within days of landing in “The Land of Cuy”.

DyCricketsVietnam350

Me?  As a slow traveler who planned to stick around Ecuador for a spell, it took a full 5 months before I ventured forth to see what all the cuy fuss was about.  Five months – not because I’m the least bit squeamish about my vittles. Indeed, I’ve ever been game to try most any edible on the Planet (including delish crickets in Vietnam and Laos, not-so-much silk worms in Thailand, and seriously dubious “mopane” worms in South Africa).  Rather, I’ve just been so busy settling in here at 8,000+ feet in Cuenca, I’d just never gotten around to sampling the miniature “pigs” until now.

 

GirlPigeons350

Seriously, I could watch the sweet Ecuadorian kids feed the pigeons for hours on end…

So off I went last Saturday, to my favorite neighborhood mercado (9 Octuber) and headed to the little cuy stand there out on the plaza amid the fluttering/clucking/pecking pigeons (speaking of which, I’ve eaten pigeon too – in Egypt, quite tasty if a bit dicey to eat around all the bitty bones).  ANYWAY…

CuyKioskLady

There were a pair of cuy spinning on the spit – a gargantuan hulk nearly the size of a small DOG, barely cooked, and twirling beside it, a demure little one – all nice ‘n brown and crispy. So I opted for the dainty one and asked the price: “Seis dolares” – goodness, not exactly cheap (by Cuenca streetfood standards).

Oh well, sez I – o.k. wrap that puppy err… cuy up, por favor!

2CuyOnStickSlider

Granted, not the prettiest sight…

 

Once I had the crispy little critter home, I rustled up a batch of my own humble facsimile of the luscious fried mashed potato patties that are often served here with the ubiquitous “hornado” (pulled pork), and…

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Now I ask ya – little different than a plateful of KFC chicken wings, no?

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Well o.k. the teeth a dead give-away: Toto, we’re definitely not dining at KFC anymore.
 

My Cuy Cuisine Review?

Meh.  Not so much.  No doubt a larger cuy would yield more to munch on, but my scrawny critter proved extremely dry, and offered precious little to nibble save a bit of thigh and a few shreds of shoulder meat.  Otherwise tasty though, with a slightly salty, smokey chicken flavor. In short, the jury’s still out, I’ll most definitely try it again – perhaps a larger/meatier cuy more gently cooked so as to taste a tad better than seasoned shoe leather.

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Euwww? or Delish!

Btw, for those in category “1.” above (i.e. gagging at the barbaric practice of eating what is considered somebody’s “pet” in your neck of the global woods), do bear in mind that “ick!” is clearly in the eyes of the beholder and/or merely what you happen to be used to/ate when you were growing up. The French love their lip-smackin’ frog legs after all, and consider snails (ala “escargot”) très, très chic. Muslims wouldn’t be caught dead munching a pork chop, and Hindus gag at the thought of eating a Big Mac.

So next time somebody passes you a bowl of roast crickets or a plate of rodent in your travels, do try to keep a polite (straight) face and at least give it a respectful taste, before you roll your eyes at the ghastly grub preferred by the locals.

And meanwhile, I would feel remiss were I to write a post on the merits of chowing down on a poor, helpless cuy – without likewise giving a guinea pig his say:

 
What about you – have you ever tried cuy? What was your most unusual new food in your travels?

Have you ever eaten your PET? Have you tried CUY (a.k.a. guinea pig)?


About the Author

Off-the-beaten-path travel is my passion,and I’ve always lived life “like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store” – eager to sample as many flavors as I can. Indeed, my life motto has long been: This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!



10 Responses to The Requisite Ecuador CUY Dinner

  1. Cuy is one of the first things I’m planning to try when we reach Ecuador in September. And isn’t it funny that everything tastes like chicken?

    • Dyanne says:

      Yup, a must try for anyone visiting Ecuador. Won’t be long now – hope to meet up with you while you’re here!

  2. Dave says:

    Good video! Thanks for the info on cuy, can’t wait to try it – or at least watch it cooking. I like your writing style and it’s great to have the accompanying photos. Look forward to your next post!

    • Dyanne says:

      Yes Dave, that video is truly adorable. And glad you like my blathering here. Do feel free to subscribe (via RSS or email) so you don’t miss my future posts, and mosey around the site to read more about my travels over… the past 30+ years!

      Are you planning on visiting Ecuador soon?

  3. I passed on cuy in Peru—and crickets in Thailand. Tasted snails in France — exactly one time. I also feel squeamish if my husband orders soft shell crabs. It looks like he’s eating giant bugs. I think I could be happy as a vegetarian.
    Suzanne Fluhr kindly contributed to world literature by posting…Montecristo (and His People) Visit Brigantine and PhiladelphiaMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Soft shell crabs Suzanne? Ooooh! I had them on the east coast a few times, and still dream of their cispy/soft deliciousness!. I guess I’m with Mr. Excitement on that one. 😉

      I too could easily be a vegetarian, but when traveling, I tend to be of the “When in Rome…” vittles persuasion.

  4. Sue Pearson says:

    Cute Video eh! I was wondering what the bones were like, is it as easy as eating chicken or closer to your comment about the pigeon? I haven’t ventured into any exotic foods, I tried Goat at a Mexican BBQ, totally untolerable, YUK…and again (many years apart) in Mexico, I had Shark, not impressed…I passed up the donkey in Paris. Maybe I need to try the bugs…Then again, maybe not… 🙂
    Sue Pearson kindly contributed to world literature by posting…4 Thumb Tack push pin in cold porcelain by mosaicmacheMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Yes Sue, more often than not, just a smidge to try something new and exotic is plenty. But you never know til you try, and sometimes… (like raw oysters which is my bar-none favorite food – learned there along the sublime shores of your own fabulous Oregon coast), it’s an “acquired taste”.

      In any case, you’ll soon have the option of trying cuy yourself, and I’ll be happy to hold your hand whilst you take your first bite! 😉

  5. Stacey says:

    As a self-confessed “picky eater” I take my hat off to you! I admit the idea makes me squirm but I’m glad you managed to taste the wee guy hehe
    Stacey kindly contributed to world literature by posting…5 Things I miss about Living in Chiang MaiMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Yes Stacey, I guess I’m of the “I’ll always try a smidge” school of international vittles. Especially if I’m in a social situation w/ locals and it would be impolite to refuse. Indeed, it seems that traveling in general (leastwise the type of travel/places I travel in) requires one to swiftly lower one’s “picky” bar (in food, hygiene, comfort, et al), no?

      No doubt you too, have grown far more adventurous in your eating choices there in Beijing, yes?

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