Cuy, the other white meat. Eating Guinea pig in Loja Ecuador

Roasting cuy (Guinea pig) in Ecuador
Roasting cuy (Guinea pig) in Ecuador

The most popular meats consumed in Loja are chicken and pork. It's likely that at least one meal a day will have one or the other as an ingredient. But when it comes to delicacies, cuy would be the meat of choice. "Cuy" is an onomatopoeia based on the sound a Guinea pig makes, and is pronounced "kwee."

Ecuador has a population of about 17 million people, and an equal number of cuy. The use of the animals for food is ancient; studies indicate the Andean animals were originally domesticated by the Indigenous perhaps as early as 5000 BC. Cuy were widespread throughout the Inca empire, and sometimes offered up as a ritual sacrifice. 

Incan cuy jar

Cuy require minimal care and space to raise. Guinea pigs are rodents - though not quite as prolific as mice - and they produce five litters per year, with an average of three offspring per litter. At maturity, an animal may weigh between 1-1/2 and 2-1/2 pounds (700 to 1100 grams).

Cuy are high in protein and low in fat and cholesterol and, yes, taste like chicken. Like chicken, the flavor lends itself to a wide variety of manipulations through the way the animal is prepared - both in the method of cooking and in the application of spices and sauces. Cuy may be cooked in a number of different ways, from broiling to boiling, or baking to barbecuing.

Typical serving of cuy asado in Loja Ecuador
Typical serving of cuy asado

The traditional dish in Loja is cuy asado (roasted Guinea pig). Flavors of cumin and garlic are prevalent in the marinade, and the finished meat is usually served with papas (potatoes) and a hot pepper sauce. Mote (a hominy-style corn) and a salad are frequent accompaniments.

How to chow down on roasted cuy? About the same way as you would eat chicken wings - due to the small size it really is finger food and quite acceptable to pick up without employing silverware.

Let me emphasize that cuy is not a common menu item in Lojano restaurants. Even though they are easy to raise in urban settings, one is more likely to encounter them served at a farmhouse in the campos than in a dining situation in the city. Indeed, you should feel honored if offered a cuy dish when visiting someone's home in the countryside.

In case you're wondering, cuy don't really exist in the wild except for feral animals that may have escaped captivity. In that environment they form small herds of a male, several females, and offspring and, if frightened, will stampede with each going in a different direction. Now that is an image, isn't it?

Cuy (scientific name Cavia porcellus), aka Guinea pig. Something different to try when visiting Loja, Ecuador.

This blog post is an example of how the team at Life in Loja helps tourists and visitors, expats and immigrants, to better appreciate the many aspects of living in Loja, Ecuador. If you would like to know more about our custom tours and relocation services then contact us by email or phone/WhatsApp at 593-098-674-5994 to begin a conversation. 


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