In this five part series, Chef Nico Vera presents the rich culinary history of Peru through the lens of a five course meal. Follow along as he breaks down Peruvian flavors, transporting us to the land of Incas and beyond. Read Part One, Part Two and Part Three.
After Afro-Peruvian slaves won their freedom, there was a need for laborers in the farms and plantations of the coast of Peru, and this opportunity brought immigrants from the Canton region of China to Peru over 150 years ago. Immigrants brought with them spices such as ginger and soy sauce, and of course, the wok for cooking with these spices.
The Chinese made such an impact on Peruvian food and culture that it affected the local language and introduced new words. In Peru today, there are thousands of Chinese restaurants known as Chifas after the Cantonese word for eating, while ginger is called kion instead of the Spanish "gengibre". Soy sauce is known by all as sillao. Perhaps that is why I feel at home in the Chinatown of any city such as New York, Montreal, Toronto, San Francisco, or Vancouver. And though I don’t know exactly when aji amarillo was ﬁrst combined with kion, sillao, beef, french fries, onions, and tomatoes in a wok, I know that the result is one of Peru’s comfort foods and most traditional of dishes, the Lomo Saltado or Chinese-Peruvian beef stir-fry. Check out the full recipe here.
Nico Vera is a Peruvian chef and Pisco mixologist based in San Francisco, California, where he promotes Peruvian food and culture through pop-up dinners and cocktail classes. You can find his recipes and calendar of events on his blog, Pisco Trail.