Tasting cuy and alpaca

Both of the meals described here were eaten at Wayrama, located near the Plaza de Armas, Santa Catalina Calle, 200, Arequipa, Peru.

Those who follow this blog probably also know my slogan: “Traveling the World, one bite at a time.” I’ll taste almost anything at least once. This week, I’ve crossed two more culinary milestones off my list: Cuy and Alpaca.

I started with a beer, the local brand is Arequipena. These roasted corn nuts are are served everywhere–very dry and salty. Perfect in bars to get the customers to order a second. Or third.

I’ll start with the Alpaca. It was a steak filet (lomo), grilled (asado) and served medium with a fresh vegetable sauce and french fries (papas fritas). Alpaca is a very lean meat, much like deer, so roasting needs to be slow. Overcooking could quickly dry out and toughen this meat. Fortunately, my chef was an old hand and I suffered neither issue, though it seems to be a naturally tough meat and I neede a knife to cut it. Despite the outward resemblance to deer, the meat was mild with no gamey taste. It was much like beef, frankly, and I’m not sure I could tell the difference. It was flavorful. I can recommend it!

This is alpaca (lomo de alpaca) with fresh vegetables. Every dish in Peru is served with potatoes, usually papas fritas (French fries), like these. The meat was a tad tough and very lean, like deer. But the taste was very close to beef, mild and not “gamey.” It was served medium and I assume more cooking would have dried it out and toughened it even more.

The cuy was not quite as I was expecting. First, let me explain that cuy is guinea pig, native to the Andes and once a staple in this area. I was ordering from a menu entirely in Spanish, so sometimes I’m a tad surprised by the resulting dish. Good thing I’ll eat almost anything. I’d expected the cuy to be roasted, which is traditional. This was deep fried filets, dipped first in cornmeal. I suspect the same cornmeal is used for trout. Tucha is very popular here and it’s usually deep fried. I detected a fishy smell with the first bite, which was disappointing. This turned out to be a very fatty piece of meat, so deep frying made for a somewhat greasy, heavy dish. After a few bites, I pulled away the breading and fatty skin and just ate the small amount of meat remaining, which, tasted like dark meat chicken. Isn’t that always the way? The saving grace to the meal was the creamy “Andean herb” sauce. It looked like it might taste too “green” but proved mild with a hint of mint. I used a couple of the ubiquitous french fries to sop up the last of the sauce, though I left most of the fatty skin and breading.

I’m going to have to give cuy another try, but find a roasted dish. I’m dining with a friend Sunday, so may try it then.