Would You Eat Your Pet Guinea Pig?

If you know anything about Peruvian cuisine, you’ll know that guinea pig (called cuy; pronounced coo-ey) is considered a delicacy. Peruvians don’t eat it regularly, but consider it a rare treat. My wife and I saw it on many restaurant menus and we knew that no culinary adventure in Peru would be complete without feasting on one. It’s remarkable that we delayed this for a good while, especially after seeing these cute critters in a pen at a weaver’s co-op in Chinchero (see above). Time was running short when we got to Puno near Lake Titicaca. There it was on the menu of highly regarded Mojsa—Traditional Oven Baked Guinea Pig. We took the plunge. It was now or never.

As it turned out, it was very tasty. Did it taste like chicken? No, not really. It had a taste of its own. The batter made it very crispy, the meat was juicy, the fat plentiful and gelatinous. We were glad that it didn’t appear split in half with little paws and head still attached.


Los Toldos’ Pollo a la Brasa (Cusco, Peru)

I’ve been seeing pollo a la brasa on many menus during my travels in Peru. The problem was that these restaurants did not have rotisseries. The chicken would be adaptations for the oven and would most certainly not have the wood-roasted flavor that has become one of the dish’s hallmarks. Its preparation is most famous in Lima, but for now Cusco would do. The only thing to do was to ask my guide in the Cusco-Sacred Valley area for a recommendation, especially since he’d done a terrific job in steering me and my wife to good restaurants during our time together.

Carlos didn’t hesitate. I had to go to Los Toldos in Cusco, his home town. At the end of our city tour yesterday, my wife and I headed straight for the restaurant, located only a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas, which meant it wouldn’t be overrun by tourists.

I’ll get to the point and say the chicken was outstanding. The skin was nicely seasoned, somewhat salty, but crisped to perfection. I saw one customer start off by eating all the skin first. The meat was succulent and fall-off-the-bone tender, wonderfully flavorful and seasoned through to the bone. Seattle has its own restaurants that serve pollo a la brasa. I take nothing away from the very good versions at San Fernando Roasted Chicken and Los Pollos Hermanos, but the chicken here was in a league of its own, truly worth seeking out.

As you enter the restaurant, whole birds are rotating on a rotisserie in an open wood-burning oven. Perhaps it’s the eucalyptus wood that also adds their special flavor. The chicken is available in the standard three sizes, one-quarter, one-half and whole, and served with the usual large-cut fries, which here were nicely done and virtually greaseless.

Service was pokey. The waiter forgot one of our drinks and didn’t bring over the sauce condiments.

Los Toldos
171 Almagro Street
Cusco 5184, Peru
+51 84 229829