El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana

El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana
The Conquistador who put the Amazaon baisn "on the map"....Francisco Orellana

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mmmmmm….roasted Andean Rat(a.k.a Cuy)! Weird Ecuadorian Foods

Written by on December 19th, 2011

So the topics around the dinner table revolved around two topics: religion(Catholicism) and food(rodent). I was consuming a rather thick-cut of sirloin topped with blue cheese and mushrooms(yum) and the rest ate fish. It was a friday and guess who was the only non-practicing Catholic. Now religion is an easy topic to slip into. To paraphrase Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor from The Brother’s Karamosov, “give me a child for the first 6 years and I’ll have him for life.” Really, though, the only thing that could make me shudder more than sitting through another mass is of eating vermin. That being said, both the Catholic Mass and rodents are enjoyed everyday in this largely Catholic and Andean nation.

I’d like to think that I am adventuresome when it comes to travel, but rather on the strait and narrow when sampling local cuisine. But for those traveling in the Andean regions of Ecuador such as Banos, Cuenca and Otavalo, you will eventually see one of those oversized rats being skinned, butterfly split and skewered, roasting in the open air markets. I am referring to the Cuy(a Quechua word, pronounced Kwee) or as we call them, guinee pigs. Hailing from the same famed family of the fabled bringer of Dark age European population erosion, the black rat, these rodentia are so-called for their large incisors. The root of rodentia, rodere, literally means to gnaw. And so it is that when you see them skinless and brazen it is their white shiny incisors shinning out at you that will probably turn your head away and shy from adventuresome experimentation.
Now, I’ve been confronted with fertalized chicken eggs in Cambodia, crispy cockroaches in Thailand, raw chicken in Japan, from which I have always balked, so why back from a good system. Look, I know, meat is meat and the Donner party would not have shied away from eating these vermin, neither would your average starving Somalian. and neither would I if it came down to munching on rat or my the shank of my aunt or uncle. But should you want to partake and do as those Quechuans when in old Quechua, than just say the magic word: “Kwee, por favor!” And you’ll get led in the right direction.
Anyhow, when not being roasted, Cuays will be found roaming around the homes of Andean People. They are said to bring good luck, heal the sick and help keep the house warm. A survey amongst most who have eaten Cuy is that it tastes like(yes, you guessed it, chicken, albeit very oily and chewey chicken. A plate is popularly served up with potato and cholclo(corn) and the meat is actually very healthy and low in fat, though in some areas they do deep fry it.
A plate will set you back from 5 to 10$ whether you eat on the streets or in a restaurant

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