Day 142: Banos, Ecuador
With a blog named Bacon is Magic, understandably food is a big part of my life. But it wasn’t always the case. In fact I grew up in a household that had a steady rotation of 10 or so bland dishes. Somewhere along the way my Italian roots kicked in and I taught myself to cook.
So for the past ten years, when I’ve returned home for Christmas, I do the cooking. And food becomes a hot topic as I struggle to find something my family will like. They have become more adventurous, on trips to Toronto my mother discovered she loved Tom Yum soup and did not completely hate sushi. My sister has been cooking on her own and is starting to appreciate bolder flavours.
So they knew when they came to Ecuador we would be eating local food. Not wanting to make it a completely traumatizing experience we often ate Ecuadorian for lunch and then something familiar for dinner. I was very proud of their openness, and while I would not call Ecuadorian food a shining culinary example, they did find some food they liked.
But the crown of the culinary travel experience in Ecuador is cuy – also known as guinea pig.
After speaking to many locals, it turns out that most Ecuadorians only eat it for special occassions and most of them don’t like. But that didn’t stop me from wanting to try it. I was disappointed that the restaurant in Cuenca was closed on Mondays but happy to find out that you could also get it in Banos.
And what was better was that while Cuenca is known for cuy, they often fry it to a crisp so you can the entire body, almost appearing as a rigid scream. But in Banos they cook it over open coals and, let’s face it everything tastes good in the barbecue.
In Banos, just outside the market there are two restaurants that sell cuy. We ordered two 1/4 portions for $3 each and I quickly reminded my family that making any gestures that the meat was disgusting would be rude to the locals who were happily eating lunch.
Surprisingly, the meat was pretty good, and not surprisingly tasted like dark meat chicken. There isn’t a lot of meat to the little critters so it’s easiest to just pick them up and eat them like wings.
So as one final gesture to this family adventure we conquered the food and moved on to get Ecuador’s true epicurean treasure – ice cream.
You can also eat cuy in Cuenca check out my video here: