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Oct 5, 2006 07:12 PM

Chinese-Peruvian cuisine (chifas)

You never know what will turn up in you back yard. This Mexican restaurant with a Peruvian menu has what seems to be Central Peruvian (Lima) cuisine including some Chinese-Peruvian dishes like chaufas (fried rice).

I'm not having a lot of luck identifying EXACTLY what are the Chinese-Peruvian dishes (ABSOLUTELY NO ENGLISH SPOKEN HERE).

So if I see fish steamed in ginger that would be the Chinese influence, is that correct?

Is cau-cau Chinese, Peruvian, Italian or all of the above?

It seems like Chinese-Peruvian food can pretty much be anything based on this Peruvian blog and descriptions of some of the dishes.

A local food critic said the tallarines saltados (fried pasta) were Italian-influenced, but I turned up a reference or two saying Chinese.

The above restaurant (in Ecuador, not Peru) even offers Chinese cooking classes and one of the dishes is a tallarin

Here's a game. Identify these soups as Peruvian, Peruvian-Italian, Peruvian-Chinese

Sancochado de Res (beef soup with veggies, yucca and corn
)Chupe de Camarones (shrimp soup with onions, tomatoes, rice, veggies, egg and milk)
Parihuela (seafood soup)
Sopa Sustancia (strips of beef and angel hair pasta)
Aguadito de mariscos (seafood soup with veggies, cilantro and rice)

I'm guessing maybe straight Peruvian, but the Aguadito might be Chinese influenced based on this SF board discussion of chifa that refreneces cilantro and seafood.

Wikipedia on Peruvian cuisine including some info about Chinese-Peruvian

Or is it just that Chinese-Peruvian is no more than Chinese restaurants that happen to be in Peru much like Chinese-American are Chinese restaurants that happen to be in the US, adjusting tradidional recipes to suite local tastes.

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  1. RW.... we were in Peru in September 2005.... and saw Chifas all over Lima... but did not get to eat at any... because our local insider (cab driver) steered us away from them... claiming hygenic problems.

    Normally, I wouldn't be bothered by something like that...but having eaten some bad meals, served at restaurants that cater to native Peruvians exclusively...and having witnessed the lack of hygene at what were suppossedly more clean places... I was scared straigth.

    What I did gleam about Chifas:

    > You only see them in the poorest neighborhoods of Lima (around the Airport etc.,)

    > Most signs are in the classic Yellow & Red colors of China & were in some kind of Chinese script.

    > We did step in one in Cuzco and glanced at the menu... the foods were vary Chinese in their concept... but the aroma was impregnated by the prolific (& bothersome to a tourist who spends more than 1 week in Peru)... basic spice mix (Rocoto pepper based) that is seemingly used to flavor all foods in Peru... Potatos al la Huncaina, Roast Chicken, Fried Trout, Roasted Potatos, Pizza, Tortilla Soup, Hamburgers, Baked Guinea Pig, you name it.... it was almost impossible to escape the Rocoto (think Red Bell Pepper + Paprika + a hint of Truffles).

    So from what I learned there... your usual Szechwan & Mandarin suspects... with fiery spicy chiles replaced by Rocoto based seasoning & the incorporation of local ingredients (Potato etc.,)

    1. The chifa menu is pretty standard, and in fact, a lot if not most of what typically shows up on U.S. Peruvian menus is from the chifa repertory - think of ``saltado'' as ``stir fry,'' tallarin as chow mein, chaufa as chow fun, jalea or ``chicharrones de camarones'' as fried shrimp. About 80 percent of the restaurants in Peru are run by Chinese, so the Chinese influence is pervasive. Some restaurants, although not all, will have simplified versions of dishes like sweet and sour pork and beef with broccoli that aren't much different from the old Cantonese-American ones.

      The Italian influence - not so much. Although I've got to assume that the common dish of taillarin verde with beef milanesa has some primeval Italian origin. Argentine food, on the other hand, is often very Italian. 60 percent of Argentina is of Italian descent.

      I can't say without tasting them, but the soups you list seem to be mostly Peruvian-Peruvian, as are ceviche, tacu-tacu, papas a la Huancaina, etc.

      1 Reply
      1. re: condiment

        More generally, 'tallarin' is Spanish for noodle. 'tallarin verde', green noodles, is a quasi-pasta with basil sauce (based on what I've had a one Peruvian restaruant, and made from a mix packet). 'milanesa' is the breaded meat, with roots in north Italy, that has migrated all over world. Note that in Mexican cooking this is often served with French Fries.

        My memory from an Ecuadorian chifa (many years ago) was that the dishes were heavy with celery, though I've also been to restaurants in Quito that tried to be more authentically Chinese.

        The menu from the Ecuadorian link looks like a mix of Chinese-like dishes (e.g. wontons, sweet and sour), along with typical Ecuadorian dishes. A favorite of mine when I was kid, was 'arroz con camarones', rice with shrimp, which may have some fried rice roots. That is, cooked rice was fried with small shrimp and peas, but there wasn't any soy sauce flavoring (that I recall). Alternatively it could be viewed as simple paella.


      2. At El Tigre, I noticed a bottle of peruvian soy sauce in the 'other' latin american section. I forgot the name but it had a toucan on it I think.

        Check out: --they have a few chinese-peruvian dishes I believe.

        Great insightful post once again, rworange.

        1. The dishes you mention are Peruvian, some with Chinese influences. The sancochos and sopas are similar and different throughout the Andes from Venezuela to Chile. The chifas in Peru are as hygenic as anywhere else.

          1. The 'secret' ingredient to a really good lomo saltado is soy sauce.