When my husband and I began planning for our trip to the Peruvian Amazon I made a list of all the things I wanted to be sure to do. Not surprisingly, adventure eating was at the top of that list. My imagination went wild with all the possibilities … after all, we would be staying at Tahuayo Lodge, voted by Outside Magazine as one of the ten best wilderness lodges in the world. I imagined the forest would be my supermarket, full of wonderful exotic proteins like boa constrictor, caiman, agouti, and more.
As it turns out, many of the animals I was hoping to sample are protected in that region (which is a great thing), so my dining pleasures weren’t quite as adventurous as I had hoped. They did, however, provide me with three delicious – decidedly Amazonian – taste treasures.
This is Part I of a three-part series about my Peruvian Amazon culinary experience.
Cuy – Better Known in America as Guinea Pig
Before we strapped on our backpacks and headed out into the jungle, we spent a couple of nights in a delightful area of Lima called Miraflores. There we enjoyed all the modern comforts of home as we spent two days exploring the city and its culture. As soon as we were checked into our hotel I hit the internet to find our first eating adventure, and I was not disappointed.
Panchitas is an upscale, trendy restaurant that caters to the local professional crowd as well as tourists looking for a taste of Peru. It didn’t take me long to spot what I was looking for – CUY CROCANTE – a whole guinea pig served with spicy potatoes and gravy and accompanied by a Creole and chili huacatay (an Andean herb often used in Peruvian salsas).
My cuy was beautifully presented – quartered, similar to how you might serve a rabbit or pheasant. It was roasted to perfection with skin so crispy it almost brought tears to my eyes. Inside, the flesh was tender and moist, with a taste somewhere in between that of a chicken thigh and pork shoulder.
Cuy is a traditional dish in both Ecuador and Peru. In fact, it is common in rural areas for families to raise guinea pigs for the sole purpose of consumption. Nowadays however, cuy is most often eaten on special occasions like holidays or weddings. My cuy entree cost just about $25 and there was plenty for my husband to sample as well. We both really enjoyed the light, subtle flavors of the little pig and would definitely eat it again given the opportunity.
Stay tuned for Part II …
The next installment in this amazing culinary adventure will document my trek through the Amazon Rainforest in search of the elusive suri grub. Take a look at the sneak preview below.