When we travel we like to observe countries’ second cuisines. What do we mean by second cuisine? It’s the style of food that, beyond the dominant national style, is the most prominent. We can define that second cuisine pretty broadly. For example in France we’d say the second cuisine is Italian and in New Zealand we’d say it’s ‘Asian’.
Second cuisines can something about their tastes, but it can also say something about their demography or politics. For example we found Chinese to be the second cuisine of Malaysia, but Western (especially fast food) the second cuisine of the Philippines.
For Colombia and Ecuador the second cuisine was Western fast food, and commonly pretty poorly executed. For Peru you could say the same, but you could also argue it’s Chifa.
Chifa is Chinese food of a kind, based on our limited experience, that actually seems very similar to what you get in New Zealand. Fried rice, fried noodles, wonton soups, fried wontons… There is an observable Chinese population that cooks this style of food. Our limited experience says their Spanish is thickly accented, suggesting they maintain a close Chinese community. Our waitress pronounced arroz – rice – as alloz.
There’s clearly also a large sector of Peruvian society that enjoys chifa food. Why this cuisine is mainstream in Peru when it barely exists in Colombia and Ecuador we don’t know. But we can say that we enjoyed it. For one thing it has vegetables. And for another, it feels something like our own ‘Asian’ second cuisine at home.