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The Chinese in Peru get their own special barrio and a restaurant on practically every other corner. The Japanese had a President elected from among their ranks and have catapulted Lima to international acclaim with the myriad sushi bars in town. Even the French get a lot of press from fusion places such as Astrid y Gastón and Hervé (are there even any Frenchmen in Peru?). Most other international cuisines squeeze in the back of the culinary combi (To wit: Siam, Guru, the smattering of Korean BBQs – you’d think Asia was the smallest continent by looking at representation in Lima). One corner of Asia – the one you probably most often forget is even in Asia – however, is starting to rear its kuffiyeh-covered head here: the Levant.
The Arabs have been maligned in recent years by the media for the extremists, the tyrants and the oppressors among them, but no one can knock their food. At least the food from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine, that is. Collectively, their food is known as Levantine, a formidable challenge to the other famed cuisines of the world.
Here in Lima my first Arab experience was at Café Beirut, just off Parque Kennedy. They have great tabbouleh and baba ghanoush, and have sheesha pipes for smoking afterwards. Café Lashesh down the street on Diagonal I probably wouldn’t go back to, but the bread there is certainly hot and tasty. Tierra Santa in Surco is probably the best for the price, and with the most variety of dishes. But the place you need to know about is the Club Union Árabe Palestino on Primavera.
The Chinese have their special schools like 10 de octubre and the Nisei have the Centro Cultural Peruano-Japonés, so it’s only fitting that the Arabs have a classic Lima institution as well. Unlike both the Chinese and Japanese before them, the Arabs didn’t arrive until more recently, specifically until after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Since that time they’ve integrated even more into Peruvian society than their counterparts, partially due to their smaller numbers. But the Club Árabe is still going strong, and recently the decided to open up their Wednesday all-you-can-eat buffet to the general public.
The exact menu changes from week to week, but you can probably always count on a few items: well-pureed hummus that isn’t too heavy on the tahini or garlic; fattoush, the crisp Syrian salad with quality olives and fresh vegetables; juicy, flavorful kibbe that is not so big that the meat mixture will break apart all over your plate; and mounds and mounds of warm, puffed Lebanese bread.
Among the items that rotate week to week are stewed chicken and rice, lamb, tabbouleh, baba ghanoush and waraq ‘ainb – stuffed grape leaves that are reminiscent of any you’d find in the Ba’kaa Valley. The Wednesday buffet runs S/.25 per person and doesn’t include a beverage, but a delicious Arab pastry like baklava is always included. The Sunday version is more expensive, but offers nearly every dish that Tía Siham knows how to make.
Take a little extra time at your meal and enjoy a cup of strong Arab coffee, but don’t stir it up: it’s not so much that “Turkish” coffee is stronger than espresso, it’s just that all the grinds are included in the cup served; gravity will filter the drink for you. If you’re lucky, Samira or one of the other ladies will turn over your finjan when you’re finished and read the grinds for you. Chances are your future may tell you that you need to return again.
i'm Arabic frome Egypt liveing now in Peru,
i hope to know more Arabic becuase i'm new here and don't know more spanish .
Chirine says :
Hey I'm lebanese from Canada living now in Peru for my husband's job. I am very curious to know if there are other arabs here... let me know! Chirine@chirine.ca