Cuy, or guinea pig, is a staple of the Andean diet. // © Carlosar
Travelers to Peru will undoubtedly come across an usual dish on many menus: cuy (pronounced coo-ee) or guinea pig. These domesticated rodents have been a staple of the Andean diet for centuries. In fact, one painting from the 1700s hanging in Cusco depicts Jesus eating a guinea pig at the Last Supper. Traditional Andean homes have guinea pigs running free inside — at least until it’s time to cook one up.
As the South America tour director for Globus Family of Brands for the past 14 years, Mauricio Yonfa has seen his share of guinea pigs. Yonfa said most of the time the dish is prepared either fried (cuy chactado) or roasted (cuy al horno). When fried, the guinea pig is cooked spread open on a grill, held down by stones, until the skin gets crispy. The cuy are also cooked in soups and stews and even stuffed in tamales. The meat is described as similar to rabbit.
According to Yonfa, a new wave of creative Peruvian chefs continues to find new ways to cook the staple.
“Today’s chefs try all kinds of different things with cuy,” Yonfa said. “It is really just up to their imaginations.”
Yonfa said Cusco is the best place to try guinea pig. For clients heading to Peru, he recommended Chicha Cusco, a restaurant by acclaimed chef Gaston Acurio, as well as Pachapapa and the Inka Grill.