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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!