Sunday, May 23, 2010

Picante de Cuy

After site assignments, way back in November (incidentally we are celebrating 6 months in site right now!!), before arriving at our new communities, we Ancash volunteers had a Community Partner Day: a day-long meeting where community members, likely work partners, came to learn about Peace Corps, socialize, and, at the end of the day, bring the volunteer back to meet their new community. One of the first activities was a simple icebreaker: break into pairs, interview your partner, and present them to the group. The questions were simple, so as not to startle newbie volunteers or shy campo-folk. One was "what is your favorite food?" Every Ancashino present said "picante de cuy," a plate that was foreign to the gringos in November but is now as well-known as Waffle House to an Atlanta native. The ever-generous mothers in my community allowed me to photograph and question the process last week so, finally, I bring this delight to the palates of the northern hemisphere:
Start by getting your fire going. Before you kill your guinea pig, you'll want to have a pot of boiling water ready. While you attend to the wood, feel free to leave the guinea pigs inside your market bag, but be careful to keep a close watch-- once they squirm out of the bag, it's a pain to chase them down . You'll also want to put your potatoes-- whole, peeled-- on to cook. Just estimate about 5-10 per person.
Once you have boiling water, cut the guinea pigs' throat and drop him in, just to scald the skin and take off the fur. Remove him from the water and use a knife or razor to shave off any remaining hair.

Next, slit your guinea pig open and remove the guts. Don't throw these away!! Once carefully cleaned, they can be boiled and fried, becoming (I'm told) a very tasty treat. Also, don't set them down next to the river as you wash the guinea pig-- it will attract all the neighborhood dogs.
Once you've removed the guts, your guinea pig is ready to cook!! Look for some sharpened sticks (bamboo works well; thank the lord for invasive species), and stick one through the length of the guinea pig.
By now your fire should have created some nice coals, and you can roast the guinea pig over the coals, rotating and adding oil as necessary. It's a smokey job, but one capable woman can manage up to ten of the little critters.
Once the guinea pig is brown and toasted all over, you might think it is ready to eat. Wrong.
First, you'll need to make your sauce. If you're prepared, you'll have ground your dried hot pepper and fresh garlic beforehand. Cook this, with some oil and water, until it forms a thick sauce.
Meanwhile (you will need assistants or several hands), take the guinea pigs off their stakes, heat plenty of oil, split them down the middle, and fry them. Make sure they get crunchy because (I'm told) the skin can be tough otherwise.
Coat both the guinea pig and the potatoes in the sauce, heap onto plates, and serve, in mass, to very hungry Peruvians and gringos.

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