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Eating Cuy Asado (Guinea Pig) in Ecuador

Eating cuy asado was high on my to-do list in Ecuador, despite having a guinea pig named Patches as a pet when I was a kid. After all, having dogs as pets didn't stop me from trying that meal in Cambodia.

On the main street in Banos, two cuy restaurants are adjacent to the Mercado (market). 

These are small, dark, smoky restaurants frequented by vacationing Ecuadorians and the occasional tourist who tries the local delicacy.

Cuy restaurants in Banos
Cuy restaurants in Banos

Despite hearing Cuenca was known for cuy, I couldn't wait any longer. One afternoon, I walked into one of the cuy restaurants and took a table in the back.

There was little light, which may have been a good thing. The cuy prices were hanging on the wall: $19 for the whole animal, $9 for half, or about $4 for a quarter.

I ordered half a cuy, which turned out to be rather ambitious, and a Coke to wash it down.

Outside the restaurants in Banos, you can see the cuy asado being cooked over hot coals. Three at a time are impaled on a large, pronged stick, then rotated slowly over the fire.

I watched my cuy being hacked with a cleaver. I was presented with the head, tail section, two front quarters, and some white rice and potatoes.

Cuy (guinea pig) in Ecuador
Cuy asado (roasted guinea pig) with rice and potatoes.

Initial attempts to try and eat the greasy little monster with a knife and fork quickly failed. I commented to the waitress about my difficulties, and she said it's easier to use my hands.

I began picking at the front quarters. The crisp and crunchy skin reminded me of the pork skin I'd eaten in Ubud, Bali.

Underneath it was a slimy, greasy layer of fat and a razor-thin section of meat, which tasted like chicken.

Further down, all you'd get were bones and organs. While I was honored to receive the head, complete with brain intact, I'd already been down that road with skop in South Africa.

I ate the rice and potatoes to give the impression I'd eaten more of my lunch than I had. I wasn't fooling anyone and felt as though I didn't do the little piggies life justice.

Cuy in Cuenca
Cuy in Cuenca

A few weeks later, I took an Ecuadorian date in Cuenca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to dinner at a much nicer cuy restaurant.

I wanted to try it again, convinced I was missing the joy of eating this little animal. Despite the more comfortable surroundings, and company who enjoyed the food, a cuy is a cuy, claws and all.

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:

Anevay Darlington

Sunday 5th of January 2014

Brave for trying it TWICE! I had it as well... I actually didn't mind it :) My mom couldn't eat it (she too had guinea pigs as pets) so i ate hers as well. Great post!


Saturday 4th of January 2014

Was that US dollars? I love your last sentence. Yep.


Tuesday 15th of October 2013

Is it there much meat on them? Looks like a lot of work for not much eating!


Tuesday 15th of October 2013

No, which is why I don't like cuy.

Mark Wiens

Monday 31st of October 2011

Ha - My stuffed animal when I was a kid was named Patches!

I only had cuy once a few years ago when I was in Peru, but I did really enjoy the crispy roasted skin and the chicken like meat - but it was pretty fatty!

Jeffrey Stern

Thursday 27th of October 2011

Not a big fan of Cuy myself even though I live here, but enjoyed your write-up. If you're in Quito and looking for some chocolate to cleanse your palate after the Cuy, though, please give us a holler!


Thursday 27th of October 2011

Hey Jeff, thanks for reading, and the invite!

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