Translated that means guinea pig.
It’s on the menu in many of the restaurants in this beautiful city where the Spanish built colonial buildings over stone Inca foundations.
And so I thought I should try it.
I was told that they served it whole. When the waiter brought it to me the body was cut into four pieces and the head also was on the plate. Two thin fangs stuck out at me. (Check out my photos below.)
I tried cutting at the skin but it was very tough almost as thick as leather.
My regular knife barely made a dent in the skin.
So I moved the side dishes, potatoes and a stuffed pepper, on to another plate so I would have room to attack the cuy.
“How do I cut this?” I asked my friend and colleague Elio Leturia, who is a native of Peru. “I’m not going to even try to chew the skin.”
I put down the fork and tried peeling the oily skin back with my fingers.
There really wasn’t much meat on the bony guinea pig. I tried to pick at the meat with my fork but I couldn’t pull it off the bone. So I put my fork down and decided to eat it with my fingers.
I peeled a small piece of the guinea pig off, closed my eyes and popped it in my mouth.
Hmmm. It didn’t taste like pork.
My friend Elio explained to me that the cuy is actually part of the rodent family.
Ay dios mio. I ate a rodent, I thought to myself.
Actually it tasted like duck. And it had the texture and brownish color of dark turkey meat.
I peeled as much meat as I could off the first piece probably no more than half an ounce. Then I tried to get the meat off two more pieces.
Elio helped me pick off the meat and he had a few bites too.
The cuy (I didn’t eat more than two ounces) didn’t really fill me up, so Elio gave me half of his chicken.
To be truthful I liked the chicken better.
But I thought I would give the cuy a try.
It wasn’t cheap either. A regular lunch special costs around 15 soles ($5). But this cuy was 48 soles or almost $16.
It may gross you out but guinea pig is eaten regularly in Cusco set
amid the Andes mountains and is often cooked for special occasions.
In the Cusco Cathedral there is a giant oil painting depicting Jesus and the apostles in the Last Supper. In the table centerpiece is a cuy.
Now those of you who’ve had guinea pigs as pets may be upset by this.
But in other cultures one person’s pet is another’s feast.