Chef Tom – Chifa: a Fusion of Peruvian and Chinese Cuisines

Chifa is a fusion of Peruvian and Chinese cuisines, brought to Peru by the influx of East Asian immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The first documented Chinese immigrants arrived in Peru in 1849 to work in coastal sugar plantations and mines, to construct rail roads, and to extract guano for fuel.

Chifa

Chifa restaurants serve typical Chinese food made with South American ingredients such as pineapple and aji amarillo (a paste made from Peruvian yellow chili peppers). Because of its popularity, Chinese food began to influence traditional Andean and coastal dishes, and over time, Chifa emerged as a new kind of authentic Peruvian food.

Lomo saltado, a very popular Chifa dish, is found throughout Peru. I found this link for the 10 Best Peruvian restaurants in Toronto. Not all of them offer Lomo Saltado, but these three had it on their menus. I recommend making a trip. You might fall in love with it, as I did.

  1. Kay Pacha
  2. Koricancha Restaurant
  3. Me Sabe A Peru

Making it at home can be even more satisfying. I’ve included a link for you to find Aji Amarillo, but it should be in any grocery store that specializes in Latin ingredients. It’s a good meal on its own, but if you’re feeding a crowd, the Avocado and Cucumber Salad and the Watermelon, Chili, and Lime are wonderful side dishes.

Lomo Saltado

Lomo Saltado
(Peruvian beef, tomato and potato stir-fry)

Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 large ribeye steaks, cut in ¼-inch slices

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

5 garlic cloves finely diced

1 large red onion cut in thick slices

5 tomatoes cut in thick wedges (use different colors if you can)

1/2 jar Aji Amarillo paste **

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

1 1/4 cups fresh cilantro, chopped

1 large bag frozen French fries (waffle cut, steak cut, or shoestring – even sweet potato fries work)

Directions:

Bring the steaks to room temperature and season well with salt and pepper. Allow to sit and “dry-brine” for an hour before slicing. Mince the garlic, slice the red onion, and slice the tomatoes into large wedges.

Bake the fries off per instructions until crisp. Set aside.

Put a cast iron frying pan over very high heat. Add the oil, heat until just starting to smoke, place a few of the steak slices into the pan in batches, and sear (don’t crowd the pan because the meat will steam instead of sear) about two-three minutes per side, allowing the meat to remain golden (about 10 minutes per batch, depending on how strong the flame is). Remove each batch after it’s seared.

Return all the steak to the pan and reduce the flame to med-high. Add the garlic, onion, tomato, Aji Amarillo paste, and stir for a couple of minutes. Add the soy sauce and vinegar to the sides of the pan and mix everything. Season with more salt and pepper.

Take off the heat, fold in the crispy French fries, and serve at once with white rice, topping everything with cilantro (don’t let it sit too long before serving because the fries get soggy).

**Aji Amarillo paste

Aji Amarillo Paste

White Rice

White Rice

Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked white Basmati rice (rinsed and drained)

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Gather the ingredients.

Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Drain in a colander and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add the salt, stir, and then add the rinsed and drained rice. Stir with a fork.

Reduce the heat, cover the rice, and let it simmer for 20 minutes, checking after 15 minutes to see if all the water has evaporated. If it has, the rice is ready. If not, replace the lid and let the rice simmer an additional 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, allow to sit, covered for 10-20 minutes, then fluff with a fork, and turn out into a serving dish.

Avocado and Cucumber Salad

Avocado and Cucumber Salad
Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds seedless cucumber, washed, peeled, and chopped into 1-inch chunks

3 thin scallions, thinly sliced

2 large avocados, pitted and roughly chopped

1/8 cup mayonnaise

1 1/2 limes, juiced

Salt and pepper

Hot sauce (I used Sriracha) to taste

1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

Directions:
Combine cucumber, scallions and avocado in a bowl.

Whisk together mayo, lime and hot sauce, adjusting levels to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss salad with dressing and garnish with cilantro or parsley.

Watermelon, Chili, and Lime

Watermelon w/ Chili, and Lime
Serve 6

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon kosher salt or other coarse salt

1 1/2 teaspoons ground chili powder

3 whole limes, zested and juiced

1 large watermelon cut into 2-inch chunks

Lime wedges

1/2 bunch fresh mint leaves, sliced thin

Directions:

Combine the salt, chili pepper, and lime zest from 3 limes in a mortar and pestle. (If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can finely chop the lime zest and use a fork to mix it with the salt and chili powder.)

Arrange the watermelon chunks on a platter and drizzle with lime juice. Sprinkle the chili mixture on top. Garnish with lime wedges and mint leaves, if desired.

Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

=CTH=

Chef Tom is currently Resident Chef for a small tech firm in San Francisco. He also teaches cooking classes, caters small parties and leads overseas culinary tours. His specialty for the last twelve years has been cooking for people with food allergies and sensitivities. His motto is “Food should give you pleasure, not pressure.”

Check him out at www.hippkitchen.com

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