It’s not uncommon to find Peruvian-Japanese “fusion” restaurants all over the world. You might think this is an exotic mix created by high-end chefs exclusively for hip, fancy restaurants, but the truth is the combination of Asian and Latin American flavors has a deep-rooted history in Peruvian culture.
As it happens with many countries’ gastronomies, they are shaped over time by cultural blends, conquests and even invasions. That’s why is safe to say that the gastronomy of a place tells a lot about its history. If you’re curious about how Japan made a huge impact onPeruvian food to turn it into the delicious blend our palates enjoy nowadays, keep reading!
In the late 19th century, Japan was going through, you might say, ‘rough patch’ both economically and socially. This can only mean many families looking to migrate to improve their quality of life quality, and at that time America was just the perfect place for that. Of all countries in America, Peru was often advertised by the Japanese government as the perfect place to grow, but this was far from the truth.
Japanese immigrants arrived only to realize Peru has its own trouble, with an adjusting economy their only place could be in the agricultural branch, with low pay and physically intense jobs. Despite this, families relied on what comforts people the most: food. But as an immigrant trying to recreate your traditional dishes with whatever ingredients are at hand always results in an interesting, new mix.
Slowly, Japanese families began doing better and opened small food businesses and restaurants; with ingredients they could afford to bring from back home and Peruvian resources they had at hand. It wasn’t long before Asian-Peruvian food leaked into what they call urban restaurant culture.
What is Nikkei cuisine?
So, at a slow but steady pace Japan earned a place in the heart ofPeruvian food and cuisine. And even though there’s a bigger Chinese population in the country, it was Japanese techniques and ingredients that endured through time and marked history forever giving birth to Nikkei cuisine.
Nikkei is a term coined for people living outside Japan, later it started to refer also the result of the combination of Japanese andPeruvian food; which by the way, is one of the most exotics you’ll find in Peru.
The most common ingredients from Japan used for Nikkei cuisine are miso sauce, ginger in many forms, soy sauce (Sillao Kikko), wasabi and rice vinegar, to name a few. As forPeruvian food it’s common to see lots of potatoes as base for meals, corn and of course Peruvianají paste or pepper paste. It’s probably hard to imagine what kind of dishes can be made with different ingredients, but the results are actually quite tasty.
One of Peru’s most popular dishes is ceviche, and it happens to have a strong Japanese influence. This is the result of the Japanese mastering the use of raw fish in its meals, thanks to the maceration of the meat with the citrics from the lemon juice. Mixed with ají amarillo paste to add a touch of spice, this recipe is loved by many all over the world. Click here to learn the full recipe forceviche.
Another cool, exotic and fancy (when presented correctly) recipe that results from a mix of Japanese andPeruvian food is the Barranquito. This recipe consists of fine slices of fresh salmon over a bed of sweet potato (a very common Peruvian ingredient). This meal also has wasabi and cocona, an Amazonian fruit.
If you’re looking for a quick bite there’s also Nikkei cuisine snacks you can enjoy. Empanadas are a very common meal in Peru because of their pocket size and ease to eat on the go. Some empanadas are filled with Japanese curry, which gives them a strong yet delicious taste.