Deciphering a Peruvian “Chifa” Menu
When the first wave of Chinese immigrants first came to Peru in the late 1800s, they were considered part of the lowest working class, seeking work in mines and sugar plantations after the country outlawed slavery.
When the first wave of Chinese immigrants first came to Peru in the late 1800s, they were considered part of the lowest working class, seeking work in mines and sugar plantations after the country outlawed slavery. The nature of the work meant that more than 95% of these incoming groups were male, and they were mostly from the Canton region of southeastern China. Later in the mid 1900s as political situations shifted in Asia, more people arrived in Peru seeking safety and work in a new world. Today, Peruvian Chinese citizens make up more than 4% of the country’s population.
A result of this cultural blend can be seen in Peru’s “chifa” restaurants, merging traditional coastal and Andean flavors with those that the Chinese brought with them. Each local chifa has essentially the same basic collection of dishes served in a fast and casual style, although higher end chifas incorporate harder-to-find ingredients imported from China. Don’t miss trying some of these classics when you’re looking for a quick meal during your travels in Peru:
• Chaufa: Just as it is in many areas of the world, fried rice is the most popular staple of adopted Chinese food. Chaufa found in Peru usually comes with 2 variations: with chicken, or with thin beef strips. Intermixed within are a medley of vegetables.
• Tallarin saltado: If you are not in the mood for rice, then try the stir fried noodles. Similar to chaufa, tallarin saltado includes a fresh mix of your choice of meat with vegetables, all tossed around in each chifa’s special sauce blend.
• Aeropuerto: It is still a mystery why this dish is named “airport”. However, it is an ideal choice for the indecisive, as it is a combination of both chaufa fried rice and saucy noodles-literally! The two components are made together rather than set on separate halves of the plate.
• Tipakay: For a more substantial meal after a long walk or day on the town, tipakay will be sure to fill you up. Pan fried pieces of chicken or beef (sometimes both) are lathered in a rich and sweet tamarind sauce, all of which is laid over a bed of white rice.
•Sopa wantan: Quench your thirst after eating so many savory delicacies with a hot, comforting bowl of wonton soup. The soup is a mixture of simple flavored spices and stock. Swimming inside is usually 1 or 2 pieces of boiled wontons filled with small pieces of meat. Diced green onions used as a garnish complete this simple but delicious side.
We would love to hear back about your favorite chifa dish!