Peruvian-Chinese Cooking: Necessity Inspires Innovative Cuisine
The marriage of two disparate cuisines can yield surprising and often delicious results. The Chinese first landed in Peru during the 1850’s to work as contract laborers in the country’s vast sugar plantations. The demand for cheap labor was great, and in just 30 years, more than 100,000 Chinese moved to Peru, many settling around its capital city of Lima.
These new immigrants were mostly men who had few skills in the kitchen and still fewer resources in their pockets. Many struggled in adapting to their new lives, but out of necessity, they established a unique style of cooking by combining Chinese techniques with Peruvian ingredients.
Those who have enjoyed Cantonese cooking will find Peruvian-Chinese food reassuringly familiar. Immigrants to Peru came largely from the southern province of Guangzhou (previously known as Canton) as well as from the nearby island of Macao. Like the immigrants who landed in this country to build the railroads, the Chinese dishes that developed in the new world were re-imagined versions of traditional Cantonese fare. Rice, soups, and stir-fried meats and vegetables that have always been staples in the Chinese diet were newly supplemented with potatoes, chiles, corn, spices, and other indigenous ingredients. As their numbers grew, the Chinese eventually began to import more ingredients from their homeland. But the emergence of a new immigrant cuisine (called chifa) was unmistakable, and continues to be cherished to this day.
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