Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Eating in Perú with a Chinese Stomach

Whenever people are looking for food while traveling, what catches their eye most other than the signature local food would probably be what resembles their home food. I am no exception for sure. As someone from China, I was quite amazed to find Chinese cooking hidden in the Peruvian dishes that we had on this trip.

1.     Chifa
Thanks to our one and only vegetarian friend, Jiayi, we got the opportunity to taste Peruvian “chifa”. Although now very popular in Peruvian cuisine, “chifa” is actually a type of Chinese cooking brought by early immigrants to Peru from southern China, from regions such as Canton. “Chifa” has a similar pronunciation to the Chinese word “吃饭(chī fàn)” which means to eat food and also to “炒饭(chǎo fàn)” which means fried rice. As a matter of fact, the Peruvian “chifa” is a type of fried rice with a variety of ingredients including vegetables and eggs or meat. Because of its easiness and flexibility to make, fried rice is one of the most popular homemade foods in China and now it seems “chifa” is also taking over Peruvian dining tables.
Jiayi's Chifa

2.     Kion
The first time I heard of the word “Kion” was when Profe talked about the different types of sauces that Peruvians use in their cuisine. When Profe told me that ‘Kion’ is actually an ingredient from China I realized that “Kion” is “(Jiāng)”, an everyday spice in almost all Chinese dishes. It seems that the early Chinese immigrants to Peru not only brought with them “chifa” but also the small plant “Kion”. Nowadays, “Kion” is no longer a spice that is only used in Chinese cuisines but finds its way into various in Peruvian dishes. One example is ceviche, a traditional Peruvian appetizer, in which “Kion” is used along with other ajís to add flavor to raw fish. Another example is the lemonade we found in Papacho in Cuzco. One of their lemonade flavors consisted of “Kion” and mint, which turned out to be a very refreshing drink. It is interesting for me to see “Kion” being used in a cold drink because Chinese families usually only drink “Kion” in hot beverages with brown sugar to warm the body up.
Kion is used in ceviche

The greenish drink in the middle has Kion in it!

3.     Tallarin Saltado
Tallarin Saltado is a combination of Lomo Saltado and fried noodles. I found this dish in the restaurant called Moreno in Cuzco. Curious about the description on the menu saying that the dish is a mixture of Chinese culture and Peruvian cooking, I decided to try it. Lomo Saltado, or stir fried beef with tomato and onion, is a typical Peruvian dish served with steamed white rice. Tallarin Saltado is Lomo Saltado mixed with stir-fried noodles instead of rice, which is a very Chinese way of cooking because in China, we like to put lots of different toppings on stir-fried noodles. Lomo Saltado is for sure a perfect topping.
Tallarin Saltado

I always found Peru to be similar to China in many ways but this experience has definitely given me a better idea of how these two cultures interact with each other. 

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