Recipes from Peru

My biggest culinary interest in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia remained that elusive "cuy".  Everyone I talked to said it was delicious.  Unanimous!  One hundred percent!  I'd seen it advertised in restaurants.  However, I never saw one guinea pig, alive or otherwise, in any of my travels.  I didn't know where you'd find them if you did have a desire to eat one of them.  WHICH I DIDN'T!

In one little restaurant near my hotel in Cusco, they also had a cuy dish.  For some reason, it wasn't on the menu.  But, if you have a hankering for cuy, and are in Cusco, you can have the meat stuffed into your ravioli.

Cusco provides a lot of international food to meet the needs of their very international visitors.  In my little "cuy ravioli restaurant", I compromised with a soup and sandwich.  The soup was vegetables and quinoa.  I never heard of quinoa before.  The waiter described it as something like couscous.  If you look at it dry, it sort of looks like a sesame seeds.  The soup was good but the sandwich was to die for!

Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich
from the people who bring you ravioli stuffed with guinea pig at Gustitos de Loli
Cusco, Peru

Valerio, my host with the most

3 chicken  breasts
2 12 oz. bottles of Kikkoman
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup honey
3 scallions
1/2 tsp fresh ginger
1 or 2 Tbs of minced garlic

1 red bell pepper, diced,
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 oz. thinly sliced almonds
1/2 sliced avacado per
lettuce for sandwich
sesame seed

This was one recipe that I didn't have to stress over.  My brother Gary cooks a killer teriyaki steak, so I knew I could rely on him for help.  He added a lot more than just soy sauce and honey to his marinade, but who am I to complain when something tastes so good?

Start with one bottle of soy sauce, and it must be Kikkoman.  I don't know if they had Kikkoman soy sauce in Peru, but in my brother's recipe, it must be Kikkoman.  So, add the soy sauce with the olive oil, honey, diced scallions, ginger, and garlic to make the marinade.  Garlic is a matter of taste, and in my brother's case, make sure it's two tablespoons instead of one.

Slice up the chicken and put it in the marinade overnight.  If you don't have enough marinade to cover the chicken, then you're gonna need that second bottle of Kikkoman.  Every now and then, you will need to shake up the container.  So, be sure you have the lid sealed.

The following day, you are ready to cook.  Depending on the size of your skillet or wok, you may not be able to cook all of the meat at once.  When my brother makes his teriyaki steak, I hope he has this problem.  The more the merrier for me.  Anyway, cook the meat, stirring frequently, over medium heat for about six minutes.  While the meat is cooking, toss in your diced bell peppers and sliced almonds.

Serve on a toasted bun with lettuce, avocado, sesame seeds, and drizzled with marinade.  Any leftovers can be sent my way.

When I travel, if I find a restaurant that I like, I'm a loyal customer.  I returned to Gustitos de Loli every chance I could.  On days that were not too busy, I helped Valerio, the waiter, with his English and he gave me travel information for the area.  He even showed me on the map where I could find that elusive cuy.

But, I'd been on that street and the intersection he described!  There were no little guinea pigs there -- alive or otherwise.  And, I only wanted to see them alive.  So, Valerio walked me to the market one morning.  I never would have found those guinea pigs!  You had to know the right door that lead to an interior courtyard.  There were dozens of crates filled with hundreds of little cuy.  Finally, after weeks of searching in three countries, I took the photos I wanted.  Nobody could convince me that they were delicious.  No amount of talking could change my mind that a pet was good for dinner.

Lesson learned: If you want to find cuy while you are in Peru, you need to first find a good amigo.

Okay, some of you may not think the teriyaki sandwich is authentic enough for Peru. When I met Timoteo, a weaver, he brought me to his home village, Pitumarka, in the Andes. I'm fairly certain that what I ate in Pitumarka was as close to authentic as I'd ever get.

Breakfast in Pitumarka with Timoteo

Breakfast was boiled corn and beans.  The corn kernels were huge!  You don't eat them like corn on the cob in the States.  You individually pluck the kernel off the cob and eat it.  Nothing was salted or slathered in butter.  The beans were an unknown variety, brown, and larger than a lima bean.  Although I ate a couple before proper instructions, you were supposed to peel off the outer layer and only eat what was inside.  To me, it didn't taste all that different either way.

Lunch was vegetable soup with what appeared to be a chicken broth, potatoes, carrots, onions, and spinach.  There was no chicken.  The local meat of choice was lamb, guinea pig, or alpaca.  This soup had none of that.   But, it was piping hot.  The bowls were metal, which wasn't too hot for any of the Peruvians.  However, it was decided that the gringo needed a second plate for insulation.  It sort of worked, after I spilled some of the piping hot soup on my leg.

After these treats, I had a chance to look in the kitchen at Timoteo's home.  They had cuy!  About a dozen of the little critters ran loose on the dirt floor.  Yes, I'm quite certain that there was more than just dirt on the floor.  But, health code or not, I was thrilled -- over the moon thrilled -- to see those guinea pigs.  And, I reassured Timoteo that I didn't eat pets.  He understood, too. He couldn't eat his cats.