A country that is shrouded in history and much mystery, Ecuador is home to treasures from the Spanish era and even pre-Colombian art across the entire country. What’s more, Ecuador is also a very popular tourist destination because of the adventure that can be taken in the Andes, climbing heights which will allow you to see snow-covered mountains and even rise to the challenge with escalating towards a volcano. Needless to say, Ecuador is also very well-known for wildlife-watching in the Galapagos Islands. Unlike anything you have ever seen before, this patch of islands in the country houses unusual species that can be found both in the land and the sea.
Although sights and history can become a huge part as to why you would visit Ecuador, who can forget the ethereal experience that is Ecuadorian cuisine? Traditional Latin American dishes such as ceviche and fanesca are commonly found in Ecuadorian households and restaurants, being part of their everyday diet. Beef, pork and chicken are but of course a staple in any cuisine and seafood is also very popular in the coastal region of Ecuador. However, there is one more source of meat that is also a part of their diet and it is called cuy, which is guinea pig. To be more specific, one of their traditional dishes is deep-fried guinea pig. Before you wince and cringe at the idea that what some would consider to be a pet would be part of another culture’s diet, do know that cuys has been a source of meat of the Ecuadorians for ages.
Deep-fried Guinea Pig
Just so you would have some peace of mind if ever you are the type who thinks that meat should only fall under beef, chicken or pork, guinea pigs were the main source of protein among the indigenous people of Ecuador. This was long before cattle were even brought into the country. So to this very day, guinea pigs or cuy as the Ecuadorians would call them is still part of their daily diet. One of the very popular dishes which use this type of meat is the deep-fried guinea pig. Forget everything you’ve learned about guinea pigs as pets when you are in this country. In Ecuador, they are bred only for eating. They are boiled, broiled or deep-fried and locals love eating them for dinner.
Relevance of the Dish in Ecuadorian Society
As you may now know, guinea pigs are a delicacy in Ecuadorian cuisine. More importantly, they have been a part of not only among Ecuadorians but also with Bolivians as well as Peruvians that date as far back as the Incan era. Deep-fried guinea pigs may be eaten on special occasions such as when celebrating the history of the country. At the same time, it is also believed that when cuy is consumed, the positive energy of the animal is also absorbed. That is also partly the reason why deep-fried guinea pigs are quite popular. Although, some parts of the country may not readily have this dish as part of their menu. You might need to travel to some places such as small villages like Peguche, which is in the region of Otavalo.
How Deep-fried Guinea Pig is Prepared and Eaten
When you think “deep-fried guinea pig” you might tend to believe that this dish is quite easy to prepare as there is nothing to deep frying other than dunking the meat in scalding oil. But no, there is more to it than just that. In reality, deep-fried guinea pigs are prepared in different ways across the highlands of Ecuador, from the way it is seasoned to the process of actually frying it. In one method used by the Chalturans, the guinea pig is fried multiple times in different temperatures to get a certain degree of crispiness that can only be achieved by using that method.
However, preparing guinea pig carcass is pretty much the same wherever you go. Even places in small villages can prepare this dish quite well. It is slaughtered, de-furred and without going too much into detail, and has its insides taken out. What you are left with is a white-coloured meat that is far from the furry creature that you have grown used to in the past. Then, it is dunked into a vat of very hot oil to fry for a specific amount of time.
You can’t choose not to notice that everything else in the guinea pig is still attached once it is cooked. The claws, the head and even the teeth are quite visible even after being deep-fried. So if you are quite queasy about that fact, then do not try this dish at all. On the other hand, if you want to try something different that is a delicacy in another culture, then you should take a deep-fried guinea pig for a spin. Once the dish is cooked, it is prepared by being spread eagle on a plate. It is cut open in half for you to see it in all its deep-fried glory.
The Experience of Eating Deep-Fried Cuy
Have you ever heard of the saying “it tastes just like chicken!”? Well, as cliché as it may sound, many compare deep-fried cuy to fowl. With very crispy skin and moist meat, one cannot help but compare this dish to fried chicken but in a more unconventional manner. One thing you should need to prepare yourself for is the incredible amount of oil this dish has, having been deep-fried multiple times. So if you do not like having your fingers drenched in oil, have a tissue or two ready. Do remember that some establishments fry the guinea pig in some breading while others do not. If you want to have the authentic experience of eating cuy, you might want to eliminate the breading.
What you will be faced with is either a whole fried guinea pig or one that has been chopped up in smaller pieces. Depending on how you would like it served, you can always instruct the restaurant on how you want to have at it. Another thing that you need to watch out for is the small parts of the guinea pig. Meaning, you can’t just chomp away and expect to get all meat in your mouth. Think of eating this dish like eating a rabbit, if you’ve ever had one. Bones are so small and the meat can be hard to get to, so you need use your fingers to tear it apart.
Eating cuy can be time-consuming and frustrating especially if you are hungry. More often than not, the meat can be salty but that is due to the way it may have been seasoned and not because the meat itself is high in sodium. One thing you might really enjoy is the crunchy skin. Everyone loves to eat crunchy skin, whether it is from chicken or a dish like deep-fried guinea pig.
How to Cook Your Own Deep-fried Guinea Pig at Home
So let us assume that you have gone to Ecuador and have grown fond of eating deep-fried guinea pig. Now on your way back home, you want to try making it for yourself. How can you do that? Well fortunately, the recipe is quite easy to make. The only problem is scoring some guinea pig meat that you can cook.
Well for your benefit let us also assume that you’ve come by one that is already de-furred, cleaned and has had its insides taken out. All you need to do is sparingly rub the meat with some salt, pepper and cumin and let it sit for a few minutes until the rub is absorbed by the meat. Then, prepare a deep fryer with about three cups of oil and heat it until it bubbles. Dunk the guinea pig in and let it fry for about ten minutes or until the skin is golden brown.
So that it would be easier for you to cook the guinea pig, butterfly it before you even start rubbing the spices. This way, it cooks faster and serving it will also be a breeze. That is of course, if your guests want to try this authentic Ecuadorian dish. On the other hand, like some exotic dishes that the world has come to love, the reputation of deep-fried guinea pig won’t get any better unless they try it!
Great for Certain Occasions
Deep-fried guinea pig is tasty depending on who is eating it. Is it something that you would want to prepare on a daily basis? No. Is it something that you might want to cook up during certain events? There is a chance that it could be. The point is, although cuy may not become a part of your daily diet, it is something that will get you a bit closer on the way the Ecuadorians live. So if you have never had the chance to try this authentic meal and you are on your way to Ecuador, make sure you grab the first chance you get to eat it! Who knows, you might never get the chance to do it again.