What Is Cuy?

Cuy, also called cobayo or conejillo de indias, is a guinea pig and a traditional entrée in South American Andean culture. In ancient Incan times, the cuy was either eaten by nobles or used as a fortune-telling method and sacrifice.Today, the animal is viewed as a nutritious staple of the cuisine. Cuy has been a Peruvian delicacy for over 5,000 years; Peruvians even gave the animal its own national holiday, which is celebrated every year on the second Friday in October.

The name "cuy" comes from the sound the animal makes, and it's often prepared in the highlands of Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador. The meat is usually served whole after being baked or barbecued, and the taste is said to be similar to wild fowl or rabbit. "Cuy chactado" is a deep-fried, flattened version of the meat served in the Arequipa region, and it's typically served alongside yellow potatoes and corn on the cob. Andean people rarely buy cuy, as it's common for a mating pair to be given as a gift to children, special guests, or newlyweds. The animals are raised in the home, but are never viewed as pets, much like the way in which chickens are raised in the United States.