Daily Slice: Guinea Pig and Corn Pizza in Ecuador
Daily Slice gives a quick snapshot each weekday of a different slice or pie that the folks at the Serious Eats empire have enjoyed lately.
Guinea pig—or cuy—is considered a delicacy in Ecuador. It's on most travelers' must-try list when they visit the country, but for those unaccustomed to encountering their dinner as a whole animal (or who just balk at the idea of eating rodent), it can be a little hard to handle this:
Secret Garden Cotopaxi, a lovely hostel just outside the boundary of Parque Nacional Cotopaxi, has found a way to let foreigners do a little guinea pig tasting without forcing them to go eye-to-eye with the beast. They serve it on pizza.
Honestly, I present this to you more as cultural experience than as ground-breaking pizza-topping discovery. Ecuadorians will tell you that cuy tastes like chicken, but both times we tried it during our travels, it struck us as oddly fishy. On the pizza, it didn't help that the meat had a considerable chew to it, meaning we were left to contemplate this flavor for a little while with each bite. But then, as cuy goes, the stuff at the Secret Garden, which they raise on-site, tasted less gamey than the whole-roast version we'd tried elsewhere. And the sweetness from the corn, that also topped this pie, provided a good counterpoint.
Secret Garden Cotopaxi cooks their pizzas in a wood-fired oven. Though, this doesn't imply some of the artisanal touches it might in the US. The hostel doesn't have a pizza peel on the premises, and so pies go into the oven in pans, meaning they never touch the oven floor. The ultra-thin crust comes out soft on the bottom, with an oven-browned, crackery edge. Finding a top-quality mozzarella or tomato sauce also seems like a difficult task when you're down a rather gnarly dirt road in the middle of the Andes.
No life-changing pizza here, but for the traveler who has been several weeks on the road, the Secret Garden's more traditional pies—say, pepperoni or four cheese—provide a taste of the comforting, reassuring food you likely desire. And the guinea pig pizza, well, for those who don't want to recognize that they're eating a childhood pet for dinner, this may be the easiest way to give cuy a try. (Dinner is served family-style, so you get the chance to try all the pizzas.)
Oh, and no matter how queasy the idea of guinea pig pizza might make you, the view from the dining room window is sure to make you feel better.