A few years ago I was getting a tour of Angkor Wat in Cambodia with some friends. We had a great day with our tour guide and he invited us back to his home to meet his family. On the way there he told us how, as a kid during the Khmer Rouge days when food was scarce, he would catch monkeys for his family to eat. The process was brilliant, it involved cutting a whole in the top of a coconut just big enough for a monkey’s hand. In the coconut, you place fruit and put the baited coconut near the base of a tree where there are monkeys present. A monkey will eventually get curious about the coconut and reach in to grab the fruit. Since the hole is just big enough to fit his hand, but not a closed fist, he will not be able to pull his hand out unless he releases the fruit, which he won’t do. While the monkey is distracted, you then whack him on the head and prepare a meal for your family.
We asked him, “How does monkey taste?”
“It tastes like cat,” he said.
“What, then, does cat taste like?”
“Tastes like monkey.”
Lat week I returned from a trip to northern Peru where there are signs at most restaurants for what is arguably the country’s national dish, the guinea pig.
Cuy, alternately called Cobayo or conejillo de indias is a guinea pig or cavy. The taste is compared to rabbit, thought delicious, and though difficult to accept for people in other countries who regard guinea pigs as pets, the cuy is a staple of Andean cuisine. They are called “cuy” for the sound they make cuy, cuy.
Wanting to experience as much as I could there, and having promised my kids I would do so while in Peru, I was determined to try it. After asking at multiple restaurants, on my second to last morning I finally had one. That’s right, I said “in the morning”. I ate guinea pig for breakfast.
How was it? It was REALLY good. Not like chicken, as the shop-worn joke goes. I have no idea if it tasted like monkey, or cat for that matter.