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Jul 17, 2010 09:05 AM

Gibnut or paca: The royal rodent ... tastes like ham when smoked

A seach for Belize food turned up this site with a photo you won't see elsewhere ... a smoked skinned gibnut.

Scroll down to the first picture of the animal with a chipmunk-like coat. However pacas are the world's second largest rodent, weighing between 12 and 25 lbs ... and more.

The gibnut was served to Queen Elizabeth II in 1985 when she visited Belize ... thus the title. I bet you thought being the Queen of England was an easy gig.

The blogger asked the local butcher for gibnut and writes "we were told that while they didn’t have a fresh one yet, they’d found some in the freezer and had smoked them, so Dennis and Escandar, the owner, gave us a half a smoked gibnut. Escandar told me to cook it just like a ham. I didn’t really believe him – how could a rodent be like a pig? – but he’s right, smoked gibnut is just like a ham, from the taste and texture of the meat right down to the skin and the fat under the skin, which is delicious if you live by the “pork fat rules” saying, and probably somewhat nauseating if you don’t like fat."

Hmmm ... the thought of eating giant rodent isn't nauseating?

There's more details ... they added some to lentil stew one night.

This photo from a mission site about cooking a gibnut gives perspective on how large these things are ... warning ... not for the easily squeemish

As far as fresh gibnut, the most often reference is that it tastes like rabbit ... some say sweeter ... some say gamier. It can be greasy according to some if not cooked correctly.

Other than that, the descriptions are all over the place ... chicken, of course, pork, deer, beef

More gibnut trivia and tasting notes in the next link

Fess up. Who has gobbled gibnut? What did it taste like?

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    Another name for gibnut ... other names not yet mentioned: , Tieflandpaka, Jochi pintado, sari, borugo, guartinaja, guagua, tinaja, ,guanta, guardatinajas, tuza real, conejo pintado, picuru, lapa.

    This blogger writes

    "It has an interesting flavor…I had it barbequed, and the taste and texture were very similar to slow-cooked pork ribs, but with an odd, soapy flavor. Maybe a bit like cilantro, but without the “green” flavor. "

    Another opinion of the flavor ... "Paca (a rabbit sized rodent, cooked in a way that tasted almost like corned beef. Good!)" ... hmmm ... rodent on rye? ... corned paca and cabbage?

    Another opinion ...

    "Victor had bought a gibnut haunch from a hunter he knew for Laura to cook. It was very tasty, finer-grained and slightly sweeter than pork loin with tiny, little bones. More like rabbit than anything else that I've eaten. And with the same drawbacks. Laura says it's easy to cook, but she still has trouble getting past the cute little paws"

    This site has lots of photos of the preparation ... another warning ... I agree with a comment that one photo is gruesome ... it is that claw hanging over the side of the pot ... it looks like fingers.

    As far as flavor ...

    "... the animal is a forest dwelling creature that feeds on fallen fruit, nuts and leaves. With such a diet you might think it would taste good. Maybe ... I couldn’t get the idea of a giant rodent out of my head, but either way I wasn’t able to eat very much of it.

    It was prepared with a maracuya (passion fruit) sauce and was roasted. The final product could have passed for beef, or possibly pork in appearance and odor. It smelled like bacon in the pan"

    One of the comments was "I bet some good Pinot Noir would be nice with that." ... ah... the problem pairing paca with wine.


    I've read, due to the high price the meat commands, there are plans to farm paca ... but it doesn't taste the same as, uh, free-range. This site writes

    "They are easily hunted by day with dogs which can sniff out the paca's dens, or during the night with headlamps while they feed ... This large rodent makes lots of noise while walking through the dry leaves of the forest or while chewing on the hard shells of the cohune nut, one of its favorite foods. The gibnut also produces a hoarse bark or a deep rumbling when disturbed."

    Yikes ... a large, noisy rat that barks.


    Wikipedia states there are two types ... lowland paca and mountain paca ... I wonder if they taste different.

    "The legend goes in the Mayan Region of the Yucatan Peninsula that the kings and Caciques used to raise Pacas for their personal use, and if a servant ate one they would be punished harshly. In Trinidad (in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago), it is called 'Lappe' and is considered among the most highly prized of wild game, its flesh being sold at high prices"


    "no other forest-dwelling Neotropical rodent has incisors this big. To aid in escape from predators, the skin of the back of a paca is very loose and slips and tears easily over an under layer of thickened connective tissue. Wounds to such areas are reported to heal within days. Distinctively, their eyes shine a brilliant yellow when spotlit."

    A rodent with large teeth and yellow eyes ... Hungry yet?


    OK, you has your gibnut. Here's some ideas about what to do with it.

    Roast stuffed leg of gibnut ... substitute venison if there's not paca on hand

    Gibnut stew

    Photos of paca stew

    Bon Appétit

    1. A brazilian friend of mine was telling me last year that his mother had just feasted on paca at a family (or neighbors' - I don't recall) gathering. She told him that she felt kind of bad eating it because paca is endangered in that part of Brazil, but still it was absolutely delicious.

      1. rworange here in Brazil both the paca and capivara are hunted and eaten. For some they are a delicacy, others an eating challenge, and in other regions a traditional part of the diet. Its not the Queen of England, but I think I read once the governor of Acre was going to serve paca to President Lula. I have had the opportunity to buy it, but where I have lived hunting is controlled and I didn't want to contribute to contraband. (Despite large fines from IBAMA, hunting of various species and illegal harvest of hearts of palm is pretty common.) I believe there is some commercial production, but not such that farmed paca shows up in the supermarket.

        4 Replies
        1. re: itaunas

          Yeah, I wonder about the reports on the web of those people who don't like it. It makes me think some of the praise is hype. Then again, one can buy a great steak or a miserable grisly piece of beef which would lead some to wonder what all the fuss was about. It might the the same in terms of the quality of paca.

          I'm sort of considering it, but I want to make sure it is a good source. I'm thinking the big restaurants in Guatemala City that have it might not be the best option as it is not something the every day Guatemalan eats. When my Spanish gets better, I'll have to ask what they think of paca.

          The Rio Dulce area supposedly has good paca, as might Belize. I guess the right time, the right place, I might give it a try.

          I do wonder what the Queen thought though. Of course, she is way to disaplined to offer a public comment ... but oh to be a fly on the royal wall to hear what she said after dinner.

          1. re: rworange

            I wouldn't set much store by what the Queen thought.
            There was a documentary about her a few years back in which they noted that she eschews garlic.

            1. re: racer x

              Maybe that was a typo and she chews garlic.

              Actually, given all the people she needs to meet, it might be more of a job requirement than a food preference.

              I was not planning to base my decisioun on her taste, only curious about it

              Then again, I do not think she has returned to Belize. That might say it all.

              1. re: rworange

                Given the nature of her job as diplomat-in-chief and the fact that she was served the dish as a guest, chances are you would never hear what she really thinks about it if she detested it.

        2. Everything tastes like ham when smoked.