Chifa is an expression in Chinese which means “eat rice”, and it has been used as the word to describe the mixture of Chinese food in Peru with Peruvian condiments and species. “Chifa” is also the name given to the restaurants of Chinese food in Peru, which are so popular that the only competition they have in number are the restaurants of “Pollo a la brasa”.
You can try Chinese food almost in every large city across the globe, but in Peru the thing is this restaurants don´t prepare “pure” Chinese food, but prepare the dishes with recipes that are now, after so many years, Peruvian, because the base for the dishes are Chinese dishes and techniques, but to get the flavor that almost every Peruvian is used to eat in the Chifas, it has to use Peruvian ingredients and some special Peruvian techniques also. The origin of this fusion between Peruvian and Chinese food come from the XIX century, when the first Chinese immigrants came to Peru and started cooking their own recipes but with the ingredients they could find here in Peru.
The main dish, or at least the most popular and that is regularly combined with other dishes in the Chifa is the “Arroz Chaufa”, which is a rice that is seasoned, among other things with soy sauce, and is fried with some Chinese vegetables, egg, and a specific kind of meat (the most popular ones are chicken, duck and pork).
Another dish that is very popular in Chifa restaurants is the “Tallarin Saltado” which is a very thin spaghetti-like pasta that is also fried in a wok with some vegetables and meat, and is cooked with soy sauce, as most of the dishes in Chifa.
Chifa is also very much known for combining sweet and sour ingredients, for example, one of the main sauces that are served in the Chifa in a variety of dishes or just to dip with fried wantan is the tamarind sauce which is made with tomato, sugar and vinegar and is the base for some famous Chifa dishes like the Kam Lu Wantan.
Also very important in the Chifas is that, unlike for example when you go to eat pasta and each person order a dish, in the Chifa is very common to order many dishes and everyone just have a scoop of every one or some of them, because one of the things that are most appreciated when you eat this food is the variety and the mix of flavors, this is why in almost every Chifa, in the menu there are “personal dishes” and “familiar dishes”.
Also, mostly in small Chifas is very common to offer “lunch menus” where you have pre-defined combinations of two or three dishes with some drink, and is very popular among Peruvian working people to eat a “Chiaf menu” in the lunch break from work.