Travelers may not expect Chinese food in Peru, but Peruvian Chinese food is actually prevalent throughout the country. Called chifa, the blend of Chinese and Peruvian food has become so popular that it now reaches beyond South America and is served globally.
Chifa wasn’t so much invented as it was developed. Chinese immigrants to South America during the 1800′s and early 1900′s kept their cooking styles from their homeland, but had to substitute Peruvian ingredients as native Chinese ingredients weren’t available. The result is a variety of stir fried foods, fish, and mixes of items like soy sauce with Peruvian spices. Chifa food is typically served with rice and won tons.
Some traditional chifa dishes include soups, chow mein and sweet and sour chicken. There is also aeropuerto, which combines tallarin saltado and arroz chaufa.
Most of the Chinese immigrants settled along the coast and around the city of Lima, so that is where chifa is most prevalent. There are around 6,000 chifa restaurants in Lima, as well as in other Peruvian cities, that shows the love of this style of food. The chifa tradition moved into Bolivia, Ecuador and Chile during the 1970s with many restaurants operating in those countries now.
The cooking style began to moving to the United States in the past 20 years and can be found in many major cities. One Peruvian restaurant with chifa food is La Costanera Restaurant on Montara Beach, on the outskirts of the San Francisco area. It offers authentic chifa, as Chef Carlos Altamirano is from southern Peru.
One chifa dish offered at La Costanera Restaurant is its Pescado a lo Macho, a seasonal fish roasted in a seafood stew with a rocotopaprika sauce and coconut rice. Come try it or one of their other dishes!