Monday, July 7, 2014

Guinea-pigs in Ecuador - Barbequed Cuy

Maybe you are familiar with the guinea pigs as nervous little pets that live in cages and eat alfalfa pellets.

That is not the case everywhere, especially in Andean countries in South America, where guinea pigs are originally from.

Eating roasted or fried guinea pig is an ancient tradition in parts of South America, and still common today.

In Ecuador guinea pigs are considered a delicacy and they are mainly raised to be eaten.

It might come as a shock but think about it for a while before totally slamming the idea.

Rodents and other small livestock represent a low-impact meat alternative to carbon-costly beef.
Guinea pigs don't require the land that cattle do.

They can be kept in backyards, or in your home.

They're docile and easy to raise.

A guinea pig herd consisting of two males and 20 females can sustain itself while providing meat for a family of six.

Perfect reasons for switching from cattle to guinea pigs.

In Ecuador guinea pigs are served up with potatoes and corn, and have been for thousands of years.

Guinea pig is also considered delicacy in Peru, Bolivia and Southern Colombia.
When I lived in Finland as a child and teenager, I had a guinea pig as a pet.

And it was hard to accept people raising guinea pigs for food and eating them on regular basis.

It was especially hard to be invited to a party and to be served a barbequed guinea pig, or cuy as they are called here, as the main course.

It took me a lot of time to take that first bite and be able to eat it.

And I have never developed the same voracious appetite towards the guinea pigs that the most Ecuadorians have.

But there are many customs, hundreds of years old and most of them date before Christopher Columbus, of tending, cooking and eating cuy.

If I was ever going to really immerse myself into the culture in Ecuador, I would have to participate in eating and preparing cuy.
I have been told that the best way to kill a guinea pig is to smash its nose into something hard.

Other people swear on drowning it with a cup full of water.

After killing the cuy, it is necessary open the throat and let the blood drain.

Then you need to was the guinea pig well, to make sure you have gotten rid of all the blood.

Passing the cuy quickly in hot water and then burning the remaining fur is the best way to get rid of it, and then is the time to open the cuy and get the intestines out.

A guinea pig is usually barbequed.

Its feet are tended flat and the head is left, with the eyes and the brain.

For many people the eyes and the brain, with the little feet, are the best parts of the cuy.

Cuy is always a main course, and it is eaten with potatoes and corn, and of course Ecuadorian chili salsa, ají.
The taste is oily and somewhat gamey, if not prepared well guinea pig can easily get stringy and tough.

But when done with care the meat is tender and delicious.

Before you claim in horror that you could never eat a cuy yourself consider these facts.

There is a clear cultural prejudice against eating guinea pigs, and rodents in general, in the United States and Europe.

And it is doubtful if an animal so favored as a pet in the United States will become a mainstream piece of protein.

But finding ways to reduce our carbon footprint is a good idea, and so is eating small livestock, like guinea pigs.


  1. Some may find this hard to absorb. I do a little bit as I see them as pets, not food. But it is always good to learn about other cultures and what they do. It's not wrong, really. It's just different!

  2. I honestly had no idea these were eaten! I had one as a pet growing up. Good to learn about other cultures

  3. I totally never knew people ate Guinea Pigs. Very cool to learn about different cultures. Great post.

  4. I always say, don't knock it till you try it. :) Thank you for sharing a bit of your culture with us.

  5. Had no idea people at Guinea Pigs! Awesome to learn about your experience eating it and why it's an ideal alternative to beef etc. Really enjoyed your post :)

  6. we were in peru and guinea pigs are big there too. jacob ate guinea pig, but i realized i'm not that adventurous of an eater when it comes to different kinds of meats. i pretty much just like beef, pork, and chicken i guess. :)

    i'm curious to try it now though.. at least one bite :P

  7. It is so interesting to learn about other's culture. Thanks for sharing this!

  8. Crazy, crazy! Love learning about others' cultures!

  9. Why would I ever eat one?! They're beautiful creatures that make for excellent pets!

  10. I had no idea that people eat guinea pigs! I would definitely struggle as they are totally a pet in my eyes but I absolutely can understand that they would be a great way for people to get meat easily.

  11. while it might be strange to us, it seems quite normal in their culture. i think i would definitely try it, but i doubt i would have them here!

  12. Wow, I didn't realize guinea pigs were a delicacy! I see them as pets as well, since I used to have one, but it definitely seems more sustainable then cattle as you mentioned.

  13. I had no idea Guinea pigs were a delicacy in South America! Its amazing how cultural difference influence what we will and won't eat. I could never eat a Guinea pig!

  14. I always find it interesting what other cultures eat! If I was there, I would definitely try some :)

  15. I have always wanted to go to Equador and try it! My college took a study abroad trip and it was all people would talk about when they came back!

  16. Interesting. I'm not one to eat it, but hey! I won't judge what others eat! If they like it, they like it! :D

  17. Ahh, it's always difficult to imagine pets as food, every culture is different, cats and dogs in china for example.. (but i don't want to think about that one much more!) its sad that they don't kill them humanely, though I know that's difficult. thanks for sharing your story!

  18. Thanks for sharing! I world probably try it, but it would not be my go to!

  19. My friend is in Ecuador right now and always posts pictures of the guinea pigs!

  20. I took pictures of the Cuy but didn't eat the Cuy!

  21. I think I would try guinea pig, but I think it would be really hard for me to kill it myself!