Peru is the ultimate foodie destination, famed for incredible dishes like ceviche, causa… and chifa. This delicious fusion of Peruvian and Chinese food has been lovingly embraced in Peru since the 19th century and you’ll never have trouble finding a chifa restaurant here.
With massive portions and a genius blend of Chinese and Peruvian ingredients, this is one foodie experience you have to try. Read on to find out everything you need to know about this Peruvian-Chinese fusion food, including some of the most popular chifa dishes you can’t miss.
1. Chifa is a fusion of Peruvian and Chinese food, brought to Peru by Chinese immigrants
The first documented Chinese immigrants arrived in 1849 and worked in railroad construction, coastal sugar plantations, mines and guano extraction. Chifa took off after an influx of Chinese immigrants arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, bringing their tasty cuisine with them.
Chinese food became so popular in Peru that it began to influence traditional Peruvian and Andean dishes. The fusion emerged as a whole new authentic Peruvian cuisine known as chifa, which includes dishes like soups, stir fries, fried rice, noodles and tangy sauces.
2. Chinese food is only called chifa in Peru
This uniquely Peruvian term is thought to have originated from the Cantonese phrase 饎飯, which roughly translates to “cooked rice”.
3. The Chinese introduced new ingredients to Peru
Classic East Asian ingredients like ginger, scallions and soy sauce were introduced to Peruvian cuisine for the first time. Chifa dishes were made using these ingredients, plus traditional Peruvian ingredients like pineapple, potatoes and aji amarillo, a paste made from yellow chilli peppers.
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4. The first Chinese–Peruvian fusion food restaurants opened in Lima around 1920
They were given the name chifa and from that moment, Peruvians fell in love with this amazing culinary coupling! While chifa is quintessentially Peruvian, Chinese immigrants have since opened chifa restaurants in neighbouring countries like Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile.
5. Chifa restaurants aren’t the only places that serve chifa
You don’t have to go to a specialty chifa restaurant to taste the chifa favourites. You can find it absolutely everywhere, in regions all over the country. It’s especially easy to find lomo saltado, one of the most popular chifa dishes served in almost every restaurant in Lima.
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6. If you want the best chifa food, head to Barrio Chino in Lima
Barrio Chino is Lima’s Chinatown, and here you’ll find thousands of chifa restaurants lining the streets. It’s an incredible scene with tangy aromas wafting through the air, ducks hanging from the windows, and lively groups enjoying their food. The hardest part is choosing which restaurant to try first!
7. The portions are huge
Make sure you’re hungry before you sit down at a chifa restaurant – because the portions are massive! If you’re eating alone, be careful what you order and ask for guidance from your waiter so you don’t accidentally order enough food for a whole family. And no matter what you eat, you have to wash it down with an Inca Cola, just like the locals do.
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8. It’s perfect to enjoy with a large group
Since chifa is not very expensive and served in huge portions, it’s the perfect meal to enjoy with a large group of people. Although, you can also find high-end restaurants that serve smaller gourmet chifa dishes.
9. Sunday is the most popular day to eat chifa
If you plan to eat chifa on Sunday, prepare for long wait times. Large groups and families of up to 20 people often eat at chifa restaurants on Sunday and it’s a wonderful atmosphere, but it does get busy!
Popular Chifa Dishes
Lomo Saltado: Beef and vegetable stir-fry
This beloved dish blends the Chinese stir-fry tradition with classic Peruvian ingredients. It’s made with marinated strips of sirloin tossed with fried potatoes, tomatoes, yellow chilli peppers, onions, soy sauce and served with steamed rice or french fries. It’s the ultimate comfort food!
Arroz Chaufa: Fried Rice
Chaufa is one of the most quintessential chifa dishes. The word chaufa literally means ‘fried rice’ in Cantonese, and you’ll find this dish served with everything. It’s also often served as a main dish and you can have it with pork, chicken or even fried fish, especially in northern Peru.
Tallarin Saltado: Chow Mein
You’ll find tallarin on every chifa menu and for good reason. This delicious dish is made with yellow egg noodles stir-fried with vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and onions, and meat like chicken (tallarin con pollo).
Or, why not take it to the next level and order Aeropuerto, which is a mixture of arroz chaufa and tallarin saltado, often served with an omelette on top!
These scrumptious Chinese meat-filled dumplings are always a favourite in chifa restaurants. You can get your fill of wantáns anyway you like, including steaming wonton soups (sopa wantán), tasty fried wantáns, and wantáns with rice or noodles.
Gallina TipaKay: Sweet and Sour Chicken
People all over the world love the iconic Chinese sweet and sour chicken, and it’s even better in Peru. Think boneless slices of chicken battered, fried and drenched in tangy sweet and sour sauce. Yum!
Have you ever tried chifa food? Let us know in the comments below!