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Peruvian Guinea Pig Goes Gourmet

The traditional Andean dish of cuy makes a fashionable comeback

While in Cusco, Peru, check out the painting in the Santo Domingo Cathedral of Jesus eating guinea pig at the Last Supper.
It may seem strange to the uninitiated, but cuy (pronounced coo-ee), or guinea pig, is a centuries-old staple of the Andean diet that remains popular today. You’re likely to find it on many menus, usually prepared al horno (roasted) or chactado (fried), but also in stews or even as a tamale filling.

Those who have tried the meat of this domesticated rodent compare it to rabbit. To prepare, the guinea pig is usually split down the center and often cooked whole on a grill, until the skin is crispy.

The trend of transforming simple traditional dishes into something au courant has not been lost on Peru’s imaginative chefs. At Cusco’s Chicha Cusco, for instance, star chef Gaston Acurio serves beautifully plated roast guinea pig with corn pancakes, hot pepper jelly, and pickled turnip. Inkagrill, another leading Cusco restaurant, offers tender, slow-roasted cuy infused with chili, garlic, and rosemary.

Cuy is making such a comeback that Peruvian restaurants from San Francisco to New York have revived it on their menus.

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