Our first Alpaca adventure came in the form of Alpaca Tartar at Astrid y Gaston in Lima. Having been named as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world, it was a pretty safe bet that this dish would be a winner regardless of the focus on this new, strange meat. The tartar was served in three ways along with waffle cut potato chips. The first preparation was traditional in style…quail egg on top with a bit of hot sauce to go along with it. The other two preparations were international journeys in their own right with one taking us to Japan with flavors of wasabi and ginger and the other bringing us back to Thailand with Thai chilies and mango. All three were distinct and amazingly delicious with the alpaca being lighter than your traditional steak tartar. It’s almost what I would expect from a pork tartar if one were to exist. And I love me some pork!
Our second taste of Alpaca was in the form of grilled skewers…slightly crisp on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside. In this simple preparation the Alpaca was almost like a hybrid between pork and chicken. The texture was very similar to well-cooked chicken but it was more flavorful.
One of the first things everyone asked me when I returned home from Peru was if I tried Guinea Pig, or Cuy Chactado. As you can see by the picture above, the answer is yes. Now before you get all bent out of shape thinking about the cute little guinea pig you had as a pet as a child you have to understand the perspective of someone like me who's passion is to explore new cultures through food.
Guinea Pig has a different meaning to Peruvians, particularly in the highlands. It's not only an important source of protein, particularly in rural areas, but the guinea pig also holds a longstanding and meaningful place in Peruvian folk medicine and religious practices historically. There's even an Indian version of the Last Supper on display in Cusco that shows Jesus and the 12 disciples feasting on this local delicacy. Not trying guinea pig while in Peru would be like going to Texas and not trying authentic BBQ or going to Thailand and not trying some insects...blasphemous to a food explorer like me!