Two things people love in Cuzco: Cuy (guinea pig), whether in their homes or on their plates, and outings. The towns near Cuzco have focussed on taking advantage of the popular joy in getting out. Their main streets are lined with restaurants, often garden restaurants, specializing in one dish or another. While pork is without a doubt the favorite meat for these outings, guinea pig also claims demand.
The town of Tipón, maybe twenty minutes south of the City is where cuy is the main focus. The restaurants may offer other food, but the cuy its not an afterthought, it is the main items whether baked or grilled on spits.
Last Sunday we made an outing to Tipón. Originally, we were going to stop in Saylla, maybe five minute closer to the City to have chicharrón, but when we got there the guys started to ask if we could go forward to tipón. They wanted guinea pig.
This is a dish that is generally eaten at home on special occasions, made from the collection of cuyes that run around in pens, or even still, on kitchen floors. There is something so intimate in preparing and serving the animals you have been living with. Flavors are those of each family and vary in their subtlety and presentation.
We turned off the highway onto a cement road and parked behind a black pickup that had pulled in right in front of us. After a brief walk, we went through the open door into the garden. To one side was a smoky oven area and preparation space. They vast majority of the space was an intensely green lawn, with flowers marking its margins. Tables of wood with stumps for chairs, or if you insisted the more contemporary and stylish plastic tables and chairs, sat under cover from the intense sun, or directly out in its August brilliance.
It was full. There seemed no room, but the young man attending us said no worries and ran to grab tables from somewhere else as well as an odd assemblage of stumps and chairs. He told us we could have a whole plate of cuy for 40 soles or a half plate for twenty. Everyone ordered the half.
With glasses of chicha morada in our hands we talked and joked around, eating some pakay fruit we had brought. The black seeds often work like clamps and so soon all the boys had earring and noserings of shiny black pakay seeds.
The cuy arrived, a whole, gutted animal, baked and crispy outside, accompanied by a healthy portion of baked noodles, potatoes, stuffed rocotos and an abundand bowl of ground, roasted peanuts and hot peppers called uchukuta.
The meat was tender with crispy flavorful skin. People devoured them. As they got to the heads, they started talking about the fox, a bone in the ear of the cuy, and wondering if anybody could find them. So they went to work and came up with four foxes. Then we had to talk about the tradition of finding the fox and drinking it in chicha. It is good luck.
After a while, the meal came to an end and we were happy and full. On the way back to Cuzco we stopped at a place with four-wheelers and a zip line so the boys could work down some of the food they ate. It was a good Sunday outing, typical of Cuzco’s ways.