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Chifa Peru food is a wonderful fusion of Peruvian and Chinese cuisines. This regional food celebrates Chinese and Peruvian culinary traditions and unites them in Chifa cuisine.
The dominant influence of Chinese Peruvians surprised us the most when we first got to Lima on our authentic food quest. Chifa restaurants in Lima are plentiful and found literally at almost every corner.
To better understand this phenomenon, we talked with locals and learned about Peruvian Chifa and the Chinese influence on Peruvian cuisine.
To help guide your culinary explorations, we highlight 5 of the most popular Chifa dishes to explore.
What is Chifa Peru?
Chifa in Peru refers to the style of food that Chinese immigrants created when they first came to Peru.
The Chinese people brought with them their own beloved culinary traditions and incorporated them into their new setting.
They experimented with making meals by using traditional Chinese ingredients combined with Peruvian ingredients.
In Lima today, there are thousands of Chifa restaurants across the city. Some estimate there to be more than 6,000 opened Chifa restaurants.
This staggering number of Chinese-Peruvian restaurants reflects the enduring popularity of this fusion food in Peru.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you are curious about Peruvian Chifa dishes, consider making them at home with a local chef. The Chef and the Dish offers cooking classes with a Peruvian chef, live via Skype. Learn how to make Lomo Saltado and other popular Chifa dishes in the comfort of your own kitchen. Find out more about Peruvian cooking classes with The Chef and the Dish.
Chifa History in Peru
To understand how Peru’s Chinese food came to be, one must delve into the nation’s history.
The Chinese were the first Asian immigrants to arrive in Peru between 1848 and 1874.
These early immigrants came as laborers. Many stayed in Peru and established small businesses and restaurants.
The Chinese introduced new ingredients to the local Peruvians. These ingredients included ginger, soy sauce, and scallions.
The Chinese immigrants also continued utilizing their traditional cooking methods.
They used local sweet and sour ingredients like pineapples and bananas from the Amazon and potatoes from the Andes Highlands to create a new cuisine called Chifa.
In the Cantonese language, “chi” means to eat, and “fan” means rice.
Barrio Chino in Lima
Chinatown in Lima or Barrio Chino is one of the Western Hemisphere’s earliest Chinatowns.
This is where early Chinese immigrants lived and where many Chifa dishes were created.
Today, the area is still one of the best neighborhoods in Lima where you can find exceptional cuisine at the many Chifa restaurants in the area.
Although the neighborhood only encompasses two blocks, you’ll find plenty of Peruvian Chinese food at all hours of the day.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Explore Peruvian cuisine with a local guide on a private street food tour. This 10 tasting of Lima with locals food tour, takes you around the city including Barrio Chino for a taste of classic Chifa cuisine. Learn about the history of Peruvian Chinese dishes and all the diverse ingredients and communities that have made Peruvian cuisine one of the best in the world.
5 Must-Try Chifa Dishes
1. Arroz Chaufa – Peruvian Chaufa Rice
Arroz Chaufa, also known simply as “chaufa,” is the most emblematic Chinese Peruvian food.
The word “chaufa” comes from the Cantonese language, and it means “fried rice.”
Arroz Chaufa is prepared with a mix of fried rice, vegetables, Chinese onions, garlic, ginger, eggs, and chicken.
Together, these ingredients are cooked in a wok with soy sauce.
Chaufa can also be prepared with other meats besides chicken, such as pork or steak.
One fun fact about this dish is that it has brought about the term “chaufero,” a cook who specializes in the art of making chaufa.
Don’t order this dish and expect to get a complex, fancy meal. Arroz chaufa is intentionally simple.
Arroz Chaufa is a great meal when you want something quick and easy, yet filling and satisfying.
2. Chaufa de Mariscos – Seafood Chaufa Rice Dish
Chaufa de Mariscos is another one of the most popular Chifa dishes. It is a variation of the traditional chaufa dish, but this time cooked with seafood.
This Chinese Peruvian fusion food is very much a part of the Peruvian food culture, and you’ll find it at many types of restaurants, not just Chinese restaurants.
Chaufa de Mariscos is typically prepared with ají amarillo or Peruvian yellow chili pepper which is a staple of Peruvian traditional dishes.
Added to the fried rice are shrimp, squid, and scallops, though some Peruvian restaurants may also include octopus and mussels.
This dish is typically cooked in a wok with Chinese ingredients like soy sauce, Chinese chives, ginger, bean sprouts and others.
While cooking, the dish takes on a beautiful yellow color from traditional Peruvian ají Amarillo sauce.
The unique blend of Chinese Peruvian flavors made this one of our favorite Chifa dishes.
We recommend skipping the standard Arroz Chaufa and choosing Chaufa de Marisco when you see it on any Chifa menu.
3. Tallarin con Pollo (Stir-Fried Noodles with Chicken)
Tallarin along with Chaufa is one of the most popular Chifa dishes that is on every Chifa menu.
Tallarin by itself is yellow noodles made with eggs.
Tallarin con pollo is a dish that pairs these noodles with chicken or pollo. As with chaufa, tallarin is stir-fried in a wok with vegetables like Chinese onions, chicken, soy sauce, and ginger.
There are several variations of Tallarin using different vegetables and meats to create multiple flavors.
While in Lima, we tried Tallarin con Pollo in combination with Chaufa. We enjoyed the stir-fried noodles and the texture of the dish.
We found Tallarin with chicken to have more complex flavors and was more tasty than a simple Chaufa, fried rice dish.
This is one Peruvian and Chinese dish you’ll quickly come to love for a quick and tasty meal.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you are in Lima for the first time, we recommend taking a city walking tour to learn about Peru’s capital. This 3.5-hour Lima city walking tour in small groups introduces you to the city’s history and historic landmarks and monuments. A better understanding of Peru’s culture will help you better appreciate the local food scene.
4. Sopa de Wonton – Wonton Soup
Any Chifa restaurant in Lima will almost always have Sopa de Wonton or Wonton Soup.
Sopa de wonton is the most common soup served at any Chifa restaurant.
Typically served as a starter, this soup is an exquisite chicken broth with steamed wontons, Chinese cabbage, and tender chicken pieces.
The wontons are Chinese dumplings made from flour and eggs and filled with meat.
On a Chifa menu, you’ll also find an upgraded Special Wonton Soup. This version includes Chinese onion, cabbage, Chinese noodles, roast duck or pork, and quail eggs.
While simple, this Chifa food is quite flavorful. It’s a delightful way to stimulate your taste buds before moving on to a typical Chifa dish.
Note that you may also see the name of this dish spelled “sopa wantán.”
5. Lomo Saltado – Peruvian-Style Beef Stir Fry
While many people consider Lomo Saltado a traditional Peruvian dish, it is a Chinese Peruvian fusion food.
This dish combines Peruvian and Chinese ingredients and is traditionally cooked in woks.
Thin-cut strips of beef are stir-fried with potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and Peru’s favorite seasoning, aji Amarillo.
Additional flavorings include soy sauce, garlic, and cilantro.
Lomo Saltado is served Chinese-style with white rice and Peruvian potatoes cooked into french fries.
Lomo Saltado is a Criollo dish, meaning a fusion of two cultures. It is one of Peru’s most famous dishes and a staple of Peruvian cuisine.
While in Peru, we savored Lomo Saltado across the country at Peruvian Chinese restaurants.
This was one of our favorite dishes. And, after digging into exquisite Chinese Peruvian flavors, it’s easy to see why this dish has transcended its Chinese origins to become a staple Peruvian food.
The immigrant culture is very strong in Peru, and the Chinese influence has yielded surprising yet excellent fusion food known as Chifa dishes.
Peru remains the country with the most Chinese restaurants in South America.
What’s interesting is that, unlike the U.S. where Chinese food is considered “ethnic,” Chifa is so deeply integrated with traditional Peruvian culture that the food has become, in itself, authentic Peruvian.
While in Peru, add Chifa restaurants and dishes to your culinary itinerary. Allow your taste buds to be excited by the diversity of remarkable Peruvian Chinese dishes.
Have you had any Chifa Peru dishes? Please let us know in the comments below, which ones you’ve had or are most tempted by from this Peruvian Chifa food guide.
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Claire is co-founder of Authentic Food Quest and a lover of simple and exquisite cuisine. Since 2015, with her partner, Rosemary, she has been traveling the world as a digital nomad, creating content about local food experiences.
Her advice from visiting 45 countries and more than 240 food cities has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post. She has also co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
An ex-mechanical engineer, Claire is responsible for SEO, keeping the website running, and the fun food & travel videos on YouTube.
When Claire is not eating, she can be found running or cycling. Find out more about Authentic Food Quest