Shortly after your arrival in Cuenca, you’ll realize that there are some pretty unique things here. One of the things tourists and expats enjoy seeing (and eating) is street food. In this post, you’ll learn about pork and cuy in Cuenca.
One of the things tourists and expats enjoy seeing in Cuenca Ecuador is the street food.
Pork and Cuy: Street Food in Cuenca Ecuador
There are a number of different things sold as street food in Cuenca, like salchipapas (french fries with a sausage/wiener on top,) bags of fruit or coconut slices, and the pastel-colored meringue with sprinkles on top.
But when it comes to street food two items rise above all others as attention grabbers: the pork and cuy.
Freshly Roasted Cuy on a Stick
For example, you may wonder what the small chicken-sized animal is – on a stick – roasting over a grill. It is known locally as “cuy”. It is what we know as guinea pig, and it is the local delicacy. It is eaten on special occasions and is one of the pricier meals here.
Loved by some, and held in disdain by others, the cuy is roasted whole over an open grill.
The cuy industry here is quite large, and in the surrounding countryside, you’ll see large fields of alfalfa – the food of choice for cuy farms. At the open markets, you can purchase them live, cleaned or roasted. Your choice.
Avenida Don Bosco is a good place to see the pork and cuy for sale, that’s where the pictures for this post were taken.
This food stand smells amazing. They sell some yummy-looking side dishes to go along with the rich meat.
We have tried the cuy and it was good. We haven’t tried the pork yet but it smells amazing!
Whole (Raw) Pork
Another unique feature here in Cuenca, is the roasted pig – you’ve probably never seen pork like this before. A stroll down a main road will provide many opportunities to sample the numerous ways to cook pork.
The pork at the food stands looks cooked but it isn’t. Usually, the skin is browned up with a blowtorch to remove the hair and then rubbed in oil or butter and browned up again.
As customers come by the vendor will cut off the slice they want and cook it for them at the food stand or give it to them to cook at home.
Normally the pig is prepared the way shown in these photos but we have seen the pork prepared differently. Sometimes the pig is stretched out on a large grill. The grill is rotated above a huge BBQ until the meat is fully cooked.
First, the whole pork is torched (with a blowtorch), to burn off the hair, and roast the skin. Then the body is scraped, to remove the layer of black ash. Then it is rubbed in butter, to give an amazing aroma.
Then, throughout the day, the pig is slowly butchered and cooked for passersby. It is deep-fried (in pork fat, no less), pan-fried, grilled, and cooked in just about any other way you can imagine.
Like eating? Then you’ll love our guide to Ecuadorian food.
You will want to get some advice from locals about safe places to try this – not all street food is safe. However, after boiling in hot oil for a few hours, one could imagine that any bacteria that were present should be long dead.
Have you tried the pork or cuy? What did you think of it? Please share your thoughts by commenting on this post.
You might also enjoy learning about Filipino food – they have a number of pork dishes that are similar to Ecuador’s fried pork.