Chifa, magical food, result of Chinese immigration to Peru
By Mariella Mazzei, Traslation: Luis Galvez
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Chifa, Peruvian-style Chinese food, is unique in the world. It is unique not only because of its authentic origin, but also due to its wonderful fusion of flavors, colors, exquisite aromas, textures and Chinese and Peruvian ingredients, becoming a real feast to the most exquisite palates.
Peru is the only country that uses the term “chifa” to refer to Chinese food restaurants. In fact, this term was coined by Creole Limeños more than a century and a half ago.
The history of “chifas” begins with the arrival of the first immigrants from Canton and Macau. According to historian Juan José Vega, the story began in the same boats that carried more than one hundred thousand Chinese people since 1849.
Many Chinese people were hired as cooks for the long journeys across the Pacific Ocean. They continued cooking in many ranches once they were on land. Some of them decided to work as cooks on their own once their contracts were over. They prepared many dishes and sold them in different markets.
Afterwards, they opened restaurants in some districts and crowded streets in downtown Lima.
Up until then, people were talking about Chinese food. However, Limeños shrewdness and inventiveness baptized it with a suitable name. At lunch time, Limeños hardly understood that Asians were going to “chifar”.
In Chinese, “chi” means to eat and “fan” means rice. This is the origin of the famous word, which has made “chifa” the Peruvian version of the generous Chinese cuisine.
To the Heat of the Burner
Chinese cooks understood the richness of our popular kitchen and learned to prepare Peruvian dishes flavored with slight Asian touches.
Later, after constant experimentation and the secrets inherited by their ancestors, Chinese cooks introduced a number of techniques translated to the “culture of wok” or “cooking in a frying pan”.
Some of Peru’s most emblematic dishes, such as “lomo saltado” (juicy pieces of beef, sautéed with purple onions and fried with tomatoes and yellow chili peppers, accompanied by Peruvian French fried yellow potatoes) were born to the heat of these burners.
This social, cultural and gastronomic phenomenon is present in Peruvian homes, where ingredients such as soy sauce, ginger, and Chinese onions are always available.
Peruvians eat Chinese sauteed noodles, as well as “arroz chaufa” (fried rice) which accompanies almost every “chifa” dish. Every Limeño market has a “chifa” stand due to its popularity.
This is how the magical fusion of Chinese-Peruvian gastronomy is produced. This process has integrated two traditions based on Peruvian and Asian native ingredients.
Luis Yong, a specialist in Chinese philosophy and its relation with Peruvian gastronomy, assures that “chifa” is the most successful food in Peru after Creole cuisine.
To prove this, he highlights that there are at least five thousand “chifas” just in Lima. Also, he adds that “there is only one Chinatown, but no Italian or German town in the country”.
“Arroz Chaufa” is one of the most famous dishes in “Chifa” cuisine. Its preparation is quite simple: the rice is sauteed with soy sauce, Chinese onion, ginger, egg omelet and beef in a wok. This dish was also created in Peru.
Mari says :
Arroz Chaufa my favorite # 1 , then Tallarin saltado.
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Dulia Lopez says :
Vivo fuera de mi querido Peru desde hace 19 años, he probado la comida china aqui en los Estados Unidos y en paises arabes y la verdad que en ningun lugar se come tan sabroso la comida china como en un "chifa peruano".