You might wonder what is Nikkei cuisine or Japanese Peruvian cuisine? And why we say it will make you salivate. To start, we need to first understand what Nikkei means. Nikkei refers to Japanese people living outside of Japan. This term has been expanded to include the innovative cuisine that results when you merge traditional Peruvian ingredients and Japanese cuisine. The Japanese Peruvian cuisine that resulted is the most intriguing cuisine of Peru.
You may not be aware, but Peru actually has the second largest Japanese population in South America after Brazil. As a matter of fact, Peru was the first country in South America to set up diplomatic relations with Japan and accept immigrants. At the end of the 19th century, when Japan was pushing farmers to immigrate, 790 Japanese pioneers migrated to Peru with the promise of farm jobs. The Japanese immigrants worked in the fields, mainly in sugarcane plantations, and later on settled in the cities opening their own small businesses.The Japanese started integrating with Peruvians, bringing their culinary heritage and their own techniques.
Nikkei cuisine was born as a result of the fusion of Japanese recipes and traditions with Peruvian ingredients.
The Japanese introduced new ingredients to Peruvian cuisine like miso, ginger, soy, wasabi and rice vinegar. They also integrated Peruvian ingredients such as aji or yellow pepper, Andes potatoes and corn. This fusion of the two cuisine cultures didn’t happen overnight but took place progressively. Today, Nikkei cuisine is constantly evolving. The best way to understand it is by experiencing it in the many Nikkei restaurants of Lima.
We would like to introduce you to five of the most traditional Japanese Peruvian dishes we sampled at different restaurants in Lima, Peru on our quest for authentic food.
5 Dishes Inspired By Japanese Peruvian Cuisine
#1: Ceviche Nikkei
Ceviche is often considered as Peru’s favorite dish. To the extent that the Peruvian government created National Ceviche Day in 2008 to honor Ceviche as part of Peru’s national heritage. We wrote more on this in a previous post. The recipe for traditional Peruvian Ceviche calls for long hours of marinating fresh fish in lime juice until it is “cooked.”
When it comes to the Nikkei approach to ceviche, lime is added only for few minutes on the fish before serving, keeping it from “overcooking.” Additionally, ginger is added to provide additional flavor as well as soy sauce.
We enjoyed Ceviche Nikkei at Cevicheria Lobo de Mar Otani located in Miraflores in Lima. The fish was deliciously and fresh with a nice lime flavor and a zingy taste.
#2: Tiradito – Sake No Niwa – Salmon/Quinoa Sashimi
Tiradito is one of the Nikkei dishes that most reflects the Japanese influence on Peruvian cuisine. It is a dish of raw fish which is thinly cut giving it the appearance of carpaccio or sashimi.
Where Tiradito differs from Ceviche is that with the Tiradito, the fish is thinly sliced, while the fish in ceviche is cubed. Tiradito, like sashimi is served raw and usually prepared immediately after ordering. Tiradito is also not served with raw onions, removing the onion mordant flavor.
We had Tiradito at a fairly new Japanese Peruvian restaurant in Lima called Tzuru located in the San Isidro district.
This Tiradito was named: Sake No Niwa. It consisted of three thinly sliced rolled salmon pieces, served with arugula, quinoa, dill and a creamy chili sauce. The freshness of the salmon with the combination of the bitter and mild flavor was exceptional. The pieces of salmon literally melted in the mouth. An exquisite delight!
#3: Amazon Nikkei – De La Selva Lo Nikkei
Japanese Peruvian or Nikkei cuisine extends to the Amazon Jungle. This particular Nikkei dish incorporates slices of a fish from the Amazon called Paiche (pronounced pie-chay).
The other ingredients are a creative mix of Japanese and Peruvian blends: anticucho dressing, white miso causa, chonta salad and cocona and mirin vinaigrette.
We tried this unique Nikkei dish at Tzuru. The first thing that captivated our attention was the fresh smell of the fish. Tasting the first bite of the paiche from the amazon was utterly delicious. Wonderfully tender and with a bit of spicy flavor from the sauces. The ensalada de chonta, which looks like spaghetti, had a smooth taste and was the perfect complement to cut the spicy taste of the paiche.
What a delightful way to experience this unique Amazonian fish.
#4: Pancayaki – Maki with Octopus
One of the classic or traditional Japanese Peruvian food is the re-interpreted Maki roll. This particular maki roll from Tzuru had: avocado, onion tempura, octopus, anticuchera sauce, mushrooms and native Andean potatoes sprinkled on top. This was a magnificent dish. The onion combined with the octopus and everything else was truly a magnificent explosion in the mouth.
#5: El Barranquino – Salmon and Sweet Potato Puree
As we were discovering Lima, we visited the Barranco district and stumbled upon a Nikkei restaurant called Hosso Sushi and Cebiche Bar. Here we ordered one of their classic Nikkei specialities called “El Barranquino”.
On a black platter, we were served 5 slices of salmon balancing delicately on a bed of sweet potato (camote) puree, with a touch of wasabi. Alongside was a salsa made with cocona, a fruit from the Amazon jungle.
The dish was quite filling and heavier than expected. At first, 5 pieces of salmon did not seem like it would be enough. However when combined with the sweet potato puree, this dish ended up being much more filling than expected. The sweet and spicy salsa was refreshing and helped balance the taste of the sweet potatoes. In short, this was a delicious example of the fusion of Japanese Peruvian cultures.
The immigrant culture and the influence on the cuisine in Peru is very strong. We wrote previously about the influence of the Chinese and Africans on Peruvian cuisine.
The Japanese Peruvian cuisine has been one of the most fascinating discoveries. The subtle transformation of fish and seafood by the Japanese to create Nikkei cuisine is nothing short of remarkable. For your next trip to Peru, do yourself a favor and and try this unique Nikkei cuisine. Experience for yourself this ever evolving fusion of flavors.
Have you tried Japanese Peruvian food before? Tell us what you think about it in the comments below?
Cevicheria Lobo de Mar Otani, Colon 587, Miraflores, Lima, Peru.
Hosso, Malecón Castilla 111, Baranco, Lima, Peru.
Tzuru, Calle 21 707, San Isidro, Peru.
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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
40 Comments on “Nikkei: Amazing Japanese Peruvian Cuisine That Will Make You Salivate”
Rarely have I come across a foodie post that so nails the title and genuinely does make me salivate in anticipation!
Up until discovering this post I never even knew that such a gorgeous sounding fusion of food cultures existed!
I wonder if this cuisine is available anywhere in Japan??
Thank you so much Rob for your feedback and kind words. Great question about the cuisine being available in Japan. I’m not sure since it was created using a mix of Peruvian and Japanese ingredients. That said, we have not visited Japan for the food and would love to explore and find out. What do you think? Cheers
I’m not sure. I’ve not seen Peruvian food in Japan, but I’m sure it’s there.
Also, the Japanese aren’t shy of trying fusion approaches when it comes to Japanese and non-Japanese cuisine. (It’s not always a success however!)
But anyone setting up shop selling food like this in Japan would certainly enjoy plenty of attention I think.
You are right Rob, Japanese cuisine is certainly flexible and adaptable. I’m not sure it would be easy to find native Peruvian products in Japan to make Nikkei. But, if it were possible, like you, I think it would be a success. Thanks for stopping by.
Those pictures of Ceviche Nikkei are making me thirsty! One pisco sour and one cup of ocha por favor 😉
Excellent post. I am a Japanese-Peruvian living in Los Angeles and, when people ask me to describe Peruvian food, I am always at a loss of words. It is so… “eclectic” perhaps?
But now I’ve found the solution: Authentic Food Quest will help me understand and explain my own cuisine! Thank you!
Cheers to you Luis…a virtual toast with a pisco sour. Thank you so much for your complimentary feedback on the article. We absolutely fell in love with Nikkei cuisine in Peru and it continues to be some of our favorite Peruvian food. Do send folks over to Authentic Food Quest to learn more about Peruvian cuisine, as a matter of fact we are about to release our new book about the amazing local Peruvian dishes we discovered in Peru. Thanks so much stopping by.
When its Japanese food, i got to be real, i never tried anything Japanese before, because i had this weird thing that i dont like japanese food in my mind. Then i tasted sushi, ah! how tasty it was, then i went on a spree to taste every japanese dish, they tingle my palate that blow me. These set of dishes look amazing, and i got to try these very soon.
Yes, Japanese food is amazing…we love it as well. Nikkei from Peru is special, though. It is heavily influenced by the Japanese culture and cuisine, though the ingredients are mostly Peruvian. It is an amazing combination of flavors. Highly recommend that you give it a try, and let us know what you think. Thanks for your comments Alex!
I love Japanese food no matter what part of the world I eat it in! There are a lot of Japanese immigrants in Brazil as well. I have a Brazilian friend who is Japanese by culture, it is an interesting mix of cultures!
Thanks Andi for your comments. Indeed Brasil does have the largest population of Japanese in South America. We never made it to Brasil, so I wonder what their Japanese and Brasilian fusion tastes like. Japanese-Peruvian is an interesting mix and the food is absolutely delightful. Thanks again.
I was unaware that the second largest Japanese population was in Peru. Two of my favorite foods are sushi and ceviche, so I’m up for trying the Japanese-influenced ceviche.
Thanks Carmen, we were just as surprised to hear to learn about the Japanese influence in Peru. Nikkei does not taste that different from ceviche, the differences are in the subtly of ingredients and flavors. You will enjoy it. Thanks for your comments 🙂
I can’t believe I didn’t get to experience Nikkei in Peru! They recently opened a restaurant here in Manila adhering to the same concept and your post just convinced me to try it out. I’m not usually a big fan of fusion but I can just imagine that whenever there’s great seafood and Japanese people around, it would be a sure hit. Always love hearing about your food adventures, Claire!
Thanks so much Trisha. Yes..yes…yes, do check out the restaurant that is close to you. The fusion of flavors and freshness of the seafood will blow you away. So glad you enjoy the reading about our adventures. Happy to hear that. Let us know what you think when you try out the restaurant 🙂
Wow, the food looks amazing! I did not know what the term Nikkei meant until now 🙂
Thanks Tandy, so glad you learned about Nikkei. The food is indeed amazing. Hope you can get some in your area and try it for yourself. Thanks for your comments!
Wow! I love Japanese food and Japanese mixed with Peruvian definitely looks interesting! I particularly want to try the maki with octopus. What an intriguing combination. ?
Thanks Darlene for your comments. Truly Nikkei is amazing and the maki with octopus is a delicious classic. Hope you get to try it soon! Cheers.
You learn something new every day. I had no idea that Japanese Peruvian cuisine even existed, but now I’d like to try Japanese-influenced ceviche and Amazon Nikkei. I’ve been to Peru and the Amazon but never ate anything like this, though I was blown away by the food.
You are so right Carol. The food in general in Peru is amazing. Glad that you have been there before. Time for another trip…this time through food 🙂 Thanks for your comments!
Okay, I just learned a while new cuisine that I’d never heard of. I want to go back to Peru now just to try all of these dishes. The plating is incredible. I love salmon sashimi and that Saki No Niwa looks so good.
Thanks Laura. Glad you are learning about some of the food specialities of Peru. The Nikkei cuisine was some of the most exquisite food we discovered. Well worth another trip back. Cheers!
Japanese – Peruvian fusion cuisine is a new one to me but you are right, I want to try it now I know about it. I love Japanese food already so I know I’ll like it. The ceviche is very similar to how it’s prepared in many of the Pacific Island so I know I love that and the plate of Tiradito is beautiful, clearly taking a lot of the Japanese influence of presentation and eating with the eyes into consideration.
Thanks Toni for your comments. Truly Japanese Peruvian or Nikkei cuisine is amazing. If you have a chance to try the Tiradito, you will be blown away. Glad you learned something new. Cheers!
I didn’t realize that there was such a large Japanese population in Peru. Nikkei cuisine sounds amazing and like such an interesting combination! Everything you had looks fantastic. I would especially love to try the El Barranquino–the combination of the salmon and sweet potatoes sounds really good, and the Ceviche Nikkei sounds delicious, too!
Thanks Jenna. We were really amazed at the Japanese influence as well and discovering Nikkei cuisine. It was all delicious and exquisite. You would love it. Check out a Peruvian restaurant near you and see if they offer Nikkei. Well worth it. Cheers!
And here I thought Nikkei was a stock exchange. Who knew? 🙂
I’ve had ceviche in Peru a few times, but I don’t recall is it was Nikkei ceviche or not. Guess I’ll have to make a trip back!
Thanks Raymond. Indeed, multiple uses for the same word…”Nikkei” : ) True the ceviche preparations styles are not that distinct, what matters is that it is fresh and tastes good. Time for another trip now. Thanks for for your comments.
I definitely learned something new today. I had no idea what Nikkei was or that there was so many Japanese influences in Peru. I would love to try this one day. Thanks for opening up yet another option in Peru!
Thanks Tonya for your comments. Glad you enjoyed learning about the Japanese influence in Peru. Cheers!
Looks like I really need to get down to Peru just to eat. Love the look of that ceviche. Thanks for sharing. I learned something new.
Good to hear Megan that you learned something new. Our goal is to inspire people to travel through food and I’m glad we did that for you. The food in Peru is truly amazing. The ceviche is so fresh due to the proximity of the Pacific. You truly can’t go wrong with any seafood. Hope you can get to visit Peru soon. Cheers 🙂
Great photographs! So hard with food!
Thanks Jamie, glad you liked the photos. It is difficult taking the photos though, especially when you want to eat the food while it is still hot 🙂 Thanks for your comments!
Those dishes look amazing and I can see why you entitled this post the way you did!
Thanks so much Dana. Truly once we discovered Nikkei food we were truly blown away. The title does “say it all.” 🙂 Cheers!
Oh gosh, so many things I want to try! You have great explanations!
Thanks so much Angela. Out of curiosity, which of the dishes are you most curious about? Thanks for your comments 🙂
OMG! I’m so jealous!!! I’m salivating, I want everything you posted. I want to go there right now.
You are so welcome Amer. Truly the food in Peru is outstanding. Nikkei deserves a special mention for being such fine cuisine with a traditional Peruvian flair. Hope you can get to Peru soon and experience it for yourself 🙂 Thanks for commenting!