Peruvian cuisine is garnering international fame around the world to the delight of Peruvians who are its biggest fans. But food fans might find some flavors reminiscent of a cuisine that took the world by storm a long time ago – Chinese food.
From the Peruvian capital Lima, CGTN's Dan Collyns took a closer look.
A master class in Peruvian cuisine with an oriental twist: Chefs from across Latin America are sharpening their skills and their taste buds at Lima's Cordon Bleu school. They are learning from one of the country's best Chinese-Peruvian chefs Patricia Chong. Her father was a chef in one of Peru's first Chinese restaurants in the early 20th century.
It's a type of restaurant you can find in any town in Peru known as Chifa.
"Chifa is word that was born here, it's Peruvian word that you won't hear anywhere else," Chong explained its origins. "It comes from the phrase Ze Fan or Chi Fan which means sit down at the table, come and eat. Dinner is served."
Chinese people have a long history in Peru. The first immigrants arrived more than 160 years ago as indentured workers. Little by little, their genes and influence spread throughout the country and nowhere is it more present than in Peruvian food.
"To me, it's a very balanced mix, it's had this success because Chifa food and Peruvian food has influences from such diverse cultures as Chinese, Japanese and Italian but it has arrived at its own blend of flavors," Chong told CGTN.
Certain ingredients such as ginger or kion or soy sauce sillau are known in Peru by their Cantonese names. That's unique in the Spanish-speaking world. The influence is so strong, said Chong, that Peruvians often don't even notice.
It's not just Chinese flavors that have permeated Peru's now celebrated gastronomy but also cooking techniques such as stir-frying with a wok, which is common currency in any Peruvian kitchen.
As Peruvian cuisine is captivating the palates of people around the world, it owes part of that success to citizens of Chinese origin like Chong, who are known as Tusan.
"I feel very proud that – because of my Chinese roots – a technique so common in Chinese cuisine has entered so much into Peruvian culinary practices and become important," Chong said.
So, the next time you tuck into Chicken Tipa Kay or a Chaufa stir-fried rice, it's worth taking the time to taste its origins.