To “Cuy” or Not to “Cuy”

I have traveled to Ecuador several times before and have always decided not to try the food that is indigenous to the area and a staple item on the Inca’s diet. The last time Kim was with me and out of respect for her feelings I didn’t partake. This trip I couldn’t wait to dive into this delicacy and learn from the Master, Chef Patricio from Restaurante Corvel in a cooking class. I have to admit I was a little tentative and wasn’t sure if the Cuy would taste gamely or not. I was a guest of Mio Tours and looked forward to this opportunity, since way before I left the states. The restaurant has a Approved rating by the Rainforest Alliance for his work in organic foods and growing a myriad of his own products. 

 

Tomato Tree with Fruit in Garden at Restaurante Corvel

Tomato Tree with Fruit in Garden at Restaurante Corvel

 

We arrived in the midst of a overcast sky and were soon not disappointed as it began to drizzle and full on rain later during the cooking class. Chef Patrico the owner and head Chef welcomed us to the restaurant and immediately placed a chef’s hat and apron on yours truly. As I had a minor scratch on my finger I also put on a set of gloves to protect the wound from infection. I may be the most OCD individual you have ever run into when it comes to food, the holding and the preparation of all the digestible ingredients.  I am a fanatic about date coding and look at every item I purchase or handle to insure I am eating appropriate foods.

 

Chef Patricio and the Nomadic Texan in the Beginning

Chef Patricio and the Nomadic Texan in the Beginning with the Avocado Ceviche

 

We immediately went to the area of his restaurant that Chef Patricio teaches his classes. I wanted to be a good student and carefully listened and obeyed his instruction. First up was the avocado ceviche in which we mixed avocados, chili peppers, oil, lime juice and a little onion if I remember correctly. I was enchanted by its flavor and it got my taste buds working.

 

Chopping Potatoes for Cream of Potato Soup

Chopping Potatoes for Cream of Potato Soup

 

We then proceeded to start the potato soup that this restaurant is famous for and as I cut the potatoes Chef Patricio added garlic and onions to a ceramic dish that was heated. This allowed the two items to caramelize and gel prior to adding the liquid similar to Aji in taste. Aji is a form of salsa in Ecuador and is more mild than salsa in the US. I stirred the concoction as Chef added the other items (potatoes I chopped, heavy cream and Italian parsley). I then was transferred to the Cuy as the soup cooked over a low heat.

 

Stirring the Onions and Garlic for the Potato Soup

Stirring the Onions and Garlic for the Potato Soup

 

The assistant chef Rosa placed the Cuy on a stick made for cooking over an open flame and is what they refer to as BBQing the Cuy. One sits and continuously rolls the Cuy to ensure its cooked through and through and the skin does not burn. This is a more tiring process than I thought. Additionally one has to fan the coals that the Cuy is cooking over and I must say I had a difficult time doing both. Rosa stepped in and helped me with the fanning. This process goes on for about an hour or so.

 

Thank you Rosa for Your Help

Thank you Rosa for Your Help

 

 

The Cuy Right Before Removing It From the Fire

The Cuy Right Before Removing It From the Fire

 

 

By the time we rotated the Cuy on the stick to cook it evenly my arms were worn out! After the soup had stewed long enough and the Cuy was done Chef Patricio loaded it all on a platter. This included the Cuy, an avocado, potatoes that had boiled by themselves and a little spice added over the fire and a dish he made while the Cuy was cooking that you find at many Ecuadorian restaurants called “Mote Pillo”. Mote Pillo consists of hominy. scrambled eggs and parsley all stirred together. it is quite tasty and I recommend it.

 

A Meal Made for an Incan King

A Meal Made for an Incan King

 

We sat down to eat. Our first course was the magnificent potato soup that Chef Patricio made and it is a meal in itself. Chef added Queso Fresca and Avocado to the soup as it was served and I couldn’t finish it. It was fantastic, but heavy. I was very full and hoped that I had room for the Cuy. My first bite was from a leg and I immediately lost any reservation I had. It was very tasty and as cliche as it sounds, it tasted like dark chicken meat (thighs and legs). I ate my half and our guide Efrain ate the rest including a portion of the cabeza. I inhaled the meat and a few inner organs that some might not eat, but I find rather good like the heart and liver.

 

Chef Patricio Drowns the Langostinos with Scotch and Sets Them on Fire

Chef Patricio Drowns the Langostinos with Scotch and Sets Them on Fire

 

Chef Patricio then brought out his famous Langostinos and I had no room left. I did manage to eat one and they are still as delicious as the last time I ate them at Restaurante Corvel. I had to stand up and stretch and let out my belt. It has been a long time since I ate such a rich meal and so many items. I was so full I almost couldn’t breathe! The cooking classes are a new offering from Chef Patricio and well within expected parameters, when you understand the meal is included. I hope that all my friends in Cuenca start attending these classes and sampling the 5 star food at this place. I compare the quality to any fine dining establishment in the states and wish Chef Patricio well. I will be back!

 

Finished Product--Langostinos--About 4oz Each!

Finished Product–Langostinos–About 4oz Each!

 

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4 responses to “To “Cuy” or Not to “Cuy””

  1. My husband and sons got to sample some cuy for the first time earlier this month. I don’t think it was prepared quite as well as the one you cooked, but they still thought it was pretty tasty!

    • NOMADICTEXAN says:

      Wendy,
      I had my reservations, but will not think twice about eating it again. At least if its cooked in this fashion. I have heard a few stories about it being “under” cooked and that would probably turn my stomach. Glad they enjoyed it! Thanks for stopping by.
      Mike

  2. Melissa says:

    I recently tried cuy for the first time in Cusco (I wrote about it, too, on my blog!). Can’t say that it was my favorite, but my 12-year-old daughter devoured hers… She loved it! I had a tough time getting past the cuy reminding me of a couple little guinea pigs I had as a child (sorry, Fluffy and Bruno!)…

    • NOMADICTEXAN says:

      Melissa,
      Thank you for stopping by and leaving your comments. I think its is great that your daughter has an adventerous appetite! I just think of it as a rabbit type animal, not the pets we all had growing up! Safe Travels. Saludos!

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