Pachamanca and Why I Know the Taste of Cuy
This past May, my wife and I spent some time trekking in the Peruvian Andes. One of our over night stays was at Colpa Lodge that is accessible only on foot or horseback. Okay, it is accessible on mule, burro or llama as well. At the lodge, we had the good fortune to partake of a pachamanca. I'd like to share my pacamanca experience.
Pachamanca is a traditional cuisine achieved by baking, with the heat of hot stones. Of course a pachamanca must utilize the potato. Other Andean produce, such as green Lima beans or "habas" and corn are often incorporated into the dish.
The meat consisted of lamb, pork, chicken, and guinea pig (known locally as cuy).
The cuy is marinated in spices which varies somewhat by preparer. I've been told that time and temperature play a part in the affect the marinade has on the taste and flovor of the meat. The ubiquitous cuy roams freely in most Andean homes. One of our guides had 16 at his house while his mother had 34. I don't think I've misused ubiquitous. Our chef, Zoylo, decided that 1 cuy would be enough for the gringos.
There were some bananas added as well. It looked like a 3:1 ratio of bananas to cuy by volume.
Rocks are heated by a wood fire for several hours to heat the stones used to cook the pachamanca. The remains of the fire are cleared and the stones placed in a pile while the final preparation of the food takes place. The stones are unpiled.
First, the potatoes are put in place on the bottom of the pachamanca. A layer of stones is added.
The meat and chicken are added placed on foil and more stones go into place.
The little cuy is the last of the meat to be put in place. The final stones are added.
A mix of local herbs top off the pile. Our guide, Dalmiro, selected the weeds (read herbs) from around the lodge grounds.
Next was a layer of cardboard.
Then some plastic potato sacks covered the cardboard.
A heavy plastic tarp covered the entire mound, and dirt was added to the edges.
Dirt was added until the tarp was completely covered. The pachamanca yielded its bounty after about an hour. That was just enough time to shower and enjoy a couple of beers, Cusqueña to be exact. Although I have no photos of the food displayed on the buffet, I can tell you that it was excellent. And, don't let anyone tell you that cuy tastes like chicken. It does not taste like chicken. It is more like the dark meat of turkey.