Have you ever come across something with a terrific name? Well, Guatemalan-syle hot dogs aren’t really one of those things. They’re commonly known as shucos, which means dirty or filthy in Guatemalan slang. We can all agree it’s not an ideal name for a dish of any kind. However, despite the bad name that the poor old shuco has to live with, it actually enjoys a fantastic reputation.
There are plenty of shuco carts around the whole country because there’s a huge demand for them. It’s only logical: for a more than fair price, you get a very delicious hot dog. Plus, you get to see it being made right before your eyes. They’re prepared very quickly as most of the ingredients are pre-cooked, except for the meat and the bun. They are tossed on the grill and you can watch them absorb the amazing smokey taste from the burning charcoal before they serve it to you on the spot. It’s kind of like magic, but better because you get to eat it.
The quality of the shuco itself depends on the stand that you’re visiting, but they’re all usually pretty good. The standard-issue Shuco can be prepared with four different kinds of meat: longaniza, chorizo, sausage and/or beef. Shuqueros (the guys who make them) may also add a personal touch to the recipe by spreading butter or chimichurri on the buns. Some culinary pioneers of the urban variety will even go as far as blowing their costumers’ mind by adding bacon to the mix. Just delicious.
On top of the meaty goodness, you also get some boiled cabbage cooked with vinegar and spices (its preparation varies from stand to stand), onions (also varies form stand to stand), guacamole (always delicious), and your average hot dog condiments. If you’re feeling adventurous you can also ask them to add in some hot sauce. Sometimes they’ll have some sort of commercial brand hot sauce, but any respectable shuco stand will offer a homemade one, which just adds to the whole experience.
The cost of this savoury hotdog varies between Q.5 and Q.23. It mostly depends on how much meat you want on your shuco. If you’re brave-or hungry-enough, you can go for the big-ass, delightful monstrosity that includes all the types of meats available barely held together by crisp buns. It’s amazing. If not, any standard shuco will do.
Where to get it, How to order it
Its incredible flavour and relatively low cost make the shuco the de facto go-to lunch to-go of the average Guatemalan worker. That’s why there’s a shuco cart ready to dish out a meal wherever there’s any kind of big commerce or office building in the country. During lunch breaks, shuco stands tend to be swarmed by hordes of hungry people demanding deliciousness in a bun. Each cart usually has one cook and one or two helpers hastily preparing all the shucos to pacify the mob. Because it’s a food cart and people are hungry, lines are pretty much non-existent. So, the shuquero usually keeps a mental note of which costumer arrived first. If you’re already well-acquainted with the shuquero, then he might serve you before your actual turn, which is nice. However, during rush hour, this will probably never happen, so don’t take it personally if he doesn’t. Also, if you have any kind of special request regarding your shuco, you’ll have to specify it several times so they don’t get it wrong. Lastly, even if you ask for a shuco “con todo” (“with everything”), you’ll still have to ask specifically for hot sauce because they’ll never assume that you want it.
All in all, everything about getting down and dirty while eating one, two or maybe even three shucos feels right. When you’re standing by the grill, you get to enjoy the scents and colours of the food while listening to the frequent costumers hold some sort of amusing banter. It all feels better if you’re downing your shuco with a cold, classic glass bottle of your soda of choice. If you’ve never eaten a shuco, we highly encourage you to try one. If you’ve never seen a shuco cart, we highly encourage you to go out more. It’s a truly Guatemalan experience.