Fusion cuisine

The magic of the Peruvian cuisine lies in its constant ability for change and creation. It is characterised by the mixture of cultural flavours and customs from abroad and from the Peruvian regions. Moreover, because of the biodiversity there is a wide variety of ingredients: the Pacific Ocean, the Andes and the Amazon offer a wide range of products and flavours.

Creole cuisine

Many Inca dishes still are cooked just like centuries years ago, good examples are carapulca and pachamanca.
During the Spanish conquest starting in 1521, many culinary techniques and ingredients were introduced, such as olives, grapes, dairy products, beef, chicken, and rice. They brought Arab and Moorish influences and they brought African slaves, of whom many worked in the cuisines of the noble and the wealthy. Over the years the African influence proved essential to Peruvian culture, particularly regarding music and cuisine. They created the most wonderful dishes from poor discarded ingredients. This was an additional step to the Creole cuisine as we know it nowadays. Examples of signature dishes are: Anticuchos, Tacu Tacu, Papa a la Huancaina, Causa and, Ají de Gallina.

Chifa cuisine

In 1849, the first Chinese immigrants from the Canton region arrived in Peru, mainly to work in cotton and sugar-cane plantations and mines. They conserved their cultural identity and traditions and when their contracts expired many moved to the capitol city, In Lima, this was the foundation of Chinatown. Because of a lack of ingredients, the Chinese immigrants were unable to prepare their cuisine in the authentic way. So they started preparing their familiar dishes using Peruvian ingredients. In Lima they opened small shops introducing frying techniques and new ingredients. such as kion (ginger) and soy sauce. This cuisine they called the Chifa cuisine, meaning "to eat rice" in Mandarin. Examples of signature dishes are chaufa (fried rice dishes), lomo saltado (a stir fry dish), tallarin (noodles made with egg) and wonton soups.

Nikkei cuisine

In 1899, the ship ‘Sakura Maru’ arrived in Callao with the first Japanese immigrants to work on Peru's coastal plantations. The work was quite heavy so they moved to Lima to create new living opportunities. By that time, the people of Lima looked down on fish and seafood. Meat was in their perception more sophisticated. Around 195o the Japanese immigrants had eradicated this prejudice. In their restaurants they served fine fish and seafood dishes that became very popular. A culinary revolution began as they brought their cooking techniques, such as a unique way of cutting fish. They used those in combination with local ingredients as they could not get hold on Japanese ingredients, creating for example tiradito out of ceviche. Peru is after Brasil the second largest country in the world with Japanese immigrants. In Brasil the Japanese could get hold of their ingredients, so there was no reason for the birth of a fusion kitchen. Nowadays, this fusion kitchen ‘Nikkei’ is very popular all over the world. The most famous Nikkei pioneer cook is Nobuyuki Matsuhisa. Early seventies he stayed in Peru for a couple of years to discover the Peruvian Creole and Nikkei cuisine, after which he opened his first Matsuhisa restaurant in Beverly Hills. The Nikkei signature dish is tiradito.

Learn more in this Nikkei cooking exchange podcast: as a guest expert I taught them about the Nikkei cuisine they talk about and then we cooked. You also find some nice recipes here from myself and the cookbook Nikkei Cuisine by Luiz Hara. Another great Nikkei cookbook I love is Nobu the Cookbook by Nobuyuki Matshuhisa.

Italian cuisine

After independence in 1821, a wave of French and Italian immigrants arrived in Peru among which my Dodero family. It took my great-granddad 2 years by boat to get to Callao in Peru. Most of the immigrants by that time where well off young single men who were looking for adventure and business. They brought their cuisines and provided an additional twist to the culinary melting pot. The name given to Italian immigrants in Peru: Bachiche.

Most of the culinary influences from Italy came from Genoa as most where from that area. Economic crisis that occurred in Italy and the Italians were attracted to Peru initially by the guano of the islands, and also because they saw that Peru was a stable country. Many original Italian dishes have been 'creolised'. Pesto noodles used to be based on basil, vegetables, and pine nuts. The Creole version adds spinach, broad beans and walnuts Examples of signature dishes are: pasta a la Genovese, minestrone soup, red noodles prepared with tomato sauce, pizza and panettone.

This is Boccadasse, the village where my roots lies