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Chifa: A Mash-Up of Peruvian and Chinese Cuisines

In Perú, and especially its capital Lima, you’ll find plenty of restaurants serving this multicultural food. 
By Published Aug. 18, 2022

When I was growing up, my mom always joked that I loved to eat rice with a side of rice. What can I say? I love rice! 

When I was developing recipes for my new cookbook with America’s Test Kitchen Kids, Gaby’s Latin American Kitchen, I knew I wanted to include a multicultural version of fried rice, called arroz chaufa, that I first learned about from a Peruvian roommate I had in New Jersey. 

The word “chaufa” comes from the Cantonese word “chaofan,” which translates as “fried rice.” In the 1800s, more than 100,000 Chinese immigrants arrived in Perú, many to work in mines and fields and build railroads. They brought cooking techniques and recipes from home, but they didn’t always have the same ingredients available in their new country. As a result, they started to improvise, using what was available in Perú. 

At the same time, these immigrants also introduced some of their traditional ingredients, such as ginger and soy sauce, to Peruvians. Over time, a whole new cuisine—called “chifa”—was born. 

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Chifa combines ingredients and cooking techniques from both cultures. Some popular chifa dishes are lomo saltado (stir-fried beef with vegetables, including potatoes); tallarín con pollo (yellow egg noodles with chicken); and, of course, arroz chaufa. If you were to visit Perú today, especially its capital city of Lima, you’d find chifa restaurants in just about every neighborhood.

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