post16 // chifa: peru’s galaxy of chinese food


Arroz Chaufa

Before landing in Perú this past summer, a stereotyped image of the nation’s people ran through my mind: dark worn faces, thick accents, compact bodies. While some of these descriptions sum up what I saw looking at the people there, many Peruvians whom I encountered held no correlation with the above-mentioned image. Instead, throughout the semester I learned the vast extent of variety that Perú holds within its boundaries from the Pacific Ocean to the Andes Mountains to the Amazon Rainforest. During a three-week period traveling within these three geographic regions this past month, I stepped outside of the mountain enclosed valley of Arequipa and into the real Perú, a potpourri of different cultures, traditions, and people.

An indicator of the combination society that is Perú is the nation’s Asian population, specifically the Chinese Peruvian populace that makes up between 3-4% of the country’s citizens. Chinese immigrants have been making Perú their own since the end of the 19th century with large numbers still coming into the country today. For this reason, their traditions and culture have blended into Peruvian society (this is where the food comes in!) While Chifa is the term for distinctively Chinese Peruvian food, the dishes themselves are very similar to imitation Chinese food found all over the globe. Yet, Chifa is a large part of the Peruvian cuisine and in being so, it is another delicious asset to the country’s array of mouth-watering platters.

The following moment epitomizes the diffusion of different cultures into the “real” Perú:

Floating down a smaller river inside the Amazon Basin—in a boat that would have just tipped if the equilibrium was not exact—the “Rainforest Tours” guide handed out our lunch for the day. In the middle of the jungle in the northeastern sector of Perú, inside banana leaves that probably came from the canopy of the Amazon, I found my Arroz Chaufa. The dish is a basic but delicious fried rice found anywhere throughout the country. This specific variety was filled with egg, mushrooms, and of course, the soy-sauce seasoned rice. The banana leaves had kept the rice warm inside, almost too hot! Yet, after letting the dish cool off with just a bit of the river breeze, I enjoyed my fair portion of Arroz Chaufa gliding through the Amazon.

It is a memory I will always have from my time in Perú.

Arroz Chaufa is just one of the many traditional Chifa dishes. Wantans, Wantan Soup, Fried Noodles (Chow Mein), and Tipa Kay Chicken (Sweet and Sour Chicken) are just a handful of the lists and lists of platters you can find at a Peruvian Chifa restaurant. Their abundance indicates the boundless stature of Chinese food in a Peruvian world.

post15 // a bread to call their own: cuzco’s pan chuta


Pan Chuta

I ate the whole thing!

Just kidding…

After enjoying my airy and light Arequipeñan bread—filled with little seeds of licorice-tasting Anis—every morning for the past four months, piled with avocado or marmalade for breakfast, it was a nice change of pace to taste a doughy filled bread. The large frisbee-like disc that I’m tightly clutching and preparing to embark upon in the above photo is the official bread of Cuzco, titled Pan Chuta. The typical bread can be found every morning on the vendor-lined streets of Cuzco, the destination city for all those who come to see Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world.

Halfway through our morning tour of Cuzco, our guide, a native Cusqueñan, purchased the round piece of bread in a small shop alongside a street covered with beverage and food carts. I hangrily waited to take a bite out of the Pan Chuta throughout the two remaining hours in our tour. But finally, the time for our mid-morning snack arrived. On top of the Qorikancha, a museum devoted to the Sun God of the Incan empire, the still warm gigantically rounded sphere was initially inhaled by our group of eighteen students, two directors, and two guides. The dough itself was sprinkled with a touch of sugar, enough to notice, but not enough to overwhelm the palate. While we ate the bread plain, it is definitely flexible enough to be prepared with either sweet toppings such as a marmalade or those more savory, like a side of eggs. The thickness of the bread was what stood out to me as I pulled my pieces apart from the mother mass. The cobweb of dough that stretched apart as each person took their own share reminded me of a typical french bread, which I hadn’t tasted in a long time.

Yet, after rounds and rounds of passing the semi-diminishing dough, it seemed like the end was still out of sight. In retrospect, the end was in sight. And by in sight I mean the end was the trash can. My only complaint with Pan Chuta is the size of the bread. In Peru, people buy their bread daily—but that? I don’t know who could eat one of those in a day! For this reason, our Cusqueñan bread was left happily unfinished, our group walking away with full stomachs and an appreciation for the traditional dough.

post6 // a meat lover’s eden: alpaca



Like most people interested in reading this right now, I love food. Not only do I love food, but in particular, I love meat. How could one be a foodie without eating one of the most extensive and foundational food groups? No tengo ni idea…

Despite my already fragile and upset stomach after a car ride up 2,000 meters from Arequipa to Colca Canyon, when given the opportunity to try alpaca for the first time, could I say anything other than yes? Of course not, I’m a meat-lover! I’d be wanting to try the Peruvian delicacy since a friend of mine here raved about eating it at a restaurant in Arequipa. I call alpaca a delicacy because the animal is a huge source of revenue in terms of both garments and meat. The alpaca and it’s closest relatives are a staple of the peruvian economy. It’s undomesticated ancestor, the vicuña, is even displayed on the Peruvian coat of arms!

As I took my copious helpings from an inside buffet at a small hotel outside of Colca, I couldn’t help but hear the loud and steamy sound of marinated meat being slabbed on to a grill. I followed the sizzling noise and pungent smell to an outdoor grill, filled from top to bottom with alpaca. To make the scene, a live alpaca was running around in the yard next to the grill, just inches away from his relatives that I was about to feast upon. Pobrecito alpaca.

And oh, did I feast. The alpaca was a sizable portion of lean cut meat, doused in a light red sauce with a tiny kick of ají to it. The meat was cooked extremely well, both tender and moist. While easy to cut, my portion contained a lot of bone. Although most may not appreciate picking through bones, I am first and foremost a buffalo wing eater and there’s nothing more I’d like to do than sift through a bone’s crevices for every last piece of meat. After working through as much as I could with a knife and fork, it was time to get the hands dirty and finish the alpaca off. All that was left on my plate after I’d finished was a clean alpaca bone, completely ridden of all meat: a job well done. 

Unfortunately, despite my love for the alpaca meat, I was only able to eat it for one meal. When a stomach is already delicate, try sticking with bread and soup and save the alpaca for later. But since I only tried it just this once, I think this calls for a round two back here in Arequipa!


post2 // ceviche


Cebiche de La Playa Escondida 

How could I have a food blog in Peru and not talk about Ceviche?

The raw fish delicacy arguably originates from present-day Peru and represents one of the country’s signature dishes. Frequently served with sweet potato, onions, and corn, the fish is marinated in a collection of  citrus juices and spiced with aji pepper. Peru’s lengthy coastal regions along the Pacific provide the perfect environment for raw fish consumption and in turn, a fresh taste of the waters.

While in Lima, I consumed a lot of delicious ceviche. However, my best experience yet with the traditional dish has to be our tour guide, Augusto’s ceviche lesson at his family’s home on La Playa Escondida, just two hours outside of Lima. After a brief obstacle of consuming raw aji, I was able to watch Augusto blend the lemon and lime juices in which he marinated the (tilapia) ceviche. Served with each of the classic seasonings, Augusto’s ceviche tasted fresh out of the ocean with each bite more savory than the last.

For any fan of seafood, I would highly recommend ceviche. Yet, please be wary that good ceviche comes from coastal regions. For instance, I’m not consuming much ceviche here in Arequipa because I am surrounded by the mountains, not the sea. Eat fresh and you’ll be feeling far from fishy!

Photo Credit: Patrick Braxton-Andrew

post1 // burger topped with fried egg, sweet potato fries, onions and aji sauce

ImageBurgers: the American classic, the celebratory food of every Fourth of July and the foundation of McDonald’s, the largest fast-food chain in the world.

Not so fast.

Who would ever think that I would find one of my best burgers ever in…Lima, Peru? I was a bit skeptical of Papachos, the “AMAZING” burger restaurant that Peruvians and visitors alike couldn’t stop raving about. Yet, my skepticism quickly faded the moment I saw the burgers at the table next to us. Their size immediately drew my attention and as soon as I had my very own in front of me, I realized I was dealing with something truly awesome. I ordered a Burger topped with a fried egg (my favorite kind!), sweet potato fries, onions and a spicy aji sauce. There is absolutely nothing that beats the fried egg’s yellow yolk, running down my entire burger and subsequently, down my hands and face. Maybe I’m just a messy burger eater but I left Papachos in pure happiness, with the yolk and aji sauce stuck in the edges of my fingernails to prove it.

A little extra about Aji to share:

Aji pepper is typical of Peru and Incan culture across the western parts of South America. While the aji sauce on this burger contained a mixture of mayonnaise, ketchup, cilantro, and tomatoes to tone down the physical pepper, straight aji is by far the spiciest food I’ve ever tried. After growing accustomed to the spicy taste of aji sauce, I easily thought I could eat the pepper raw in a visit to our tour guide’s home. My large bite into the aji pepper resulted in an eyes-watering, nose-running, mouth on FIRE reaction to what I thought I could handle like a champ. In turn, I resembled more of a weezing little girl who in an attempt to soak up the spice, was strangely stuffing napkins in her mouth in the corner of the room. In retrospect, I was happy I tried it but nowadays, I prefer to eat my aji in highly blended sauces.