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Great Chinese Food in Lima's Calle Capon

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Chinese food or "Chifa" ( the word is derived from 酒饭 chī fàn, or "eat meal" in Mandarin)as it's known by most Peruvians could be considered a cuisine epidemic, in that the restaurants are widespread throughout many coastal cities (not very common when you go to the sierra or the jungle).  Lima by far holds the record for most Chifas in Peru (more than 6,000 restaurants), with each district containing several usually with each restaurant only a few meters from the next.  Interestingly, the popularity of Chinese food in Peru could easily rival that of the US, with most Limeños eating Chifa about once or twice a week (sometimes more!).  I should probably clarify that Chifa is NOT solely Chinese food but a hybrid fusion of both Chinese and Peruvian cuisine. 


When did Chinese food arrive in Peru? The Chinese first arrived to Peru in the late 19th Century as contracted laborers to work in sugar cane plantations, guano mines along the coast, the development of Peru's early railroads, and in the Amazon working in mines and agriculture, in order to replace the slaves in order to facilitate the end of slavery and the beginning of free labor.  It wouldn't be until the beginning of the 20th century that non contract laborer Chinese would begin to migrate to Peru.  Most Chinese upon completing their contracts would then adopt Spanish surnames and establish small businesses as many chose to settle in Peru rather than return to a communist ruled China.  It was likely at this point in history that many Peruvians were first exposed to Chifa cuisine just as they were being exposed to Afro-Peruvian cuisine or Criollo

Calle Capón, Lima's Chinatown is one of the oldest established Chinatown's in the Western Hemisphere, while not necesarily the largest.  Today El Barrio Chino (AKA: Calle Capón) is a heavily frequented part of downtown Lima, especially due to it's close proximity to the Mercado Central of Lima and Mesa Redonda.  Calle Capón even has it's very own website where those interested can visit to learn more about what it offers. 

If traditional and authentic Chinese food is what you are looking for then the Wa Lok in Calle Capón or El Dragon Rojo in San Borja on Av. Aviación are well worth a visit (note that with Dragon Rojo you will have to ask for the legendary second menu).  The Wa Lok in Lima is recognized by many Limeños as the best Chinese restaurant.  At the Wa Lok you will find many classic Cantonese dishes as well as a few Peruvian-Chinese dishes.  The portions are perfect for families or group gatherings which helps counter the modest price range of most dishes.  This is also a great place for those who are aficionados of Dim Sum, which offers a wide variety of popular favorites from siu mai to seong hoi siu lung bau (steamed dumplings).  The one downside to eating at the Wa Lok which I always seem to encounter each time that I've been there is the wait staff (the service is definitely lacking in this aspect).  The Wa Lok is still worth the trip not just for the food but also the experience of walking through Lima's Chinatown.  Make sure you check the large food market located near the large Chinese arch.

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A travel blog about living abroad in Lima, Peru and my travels to cities like Cuzco and Machu Picchu. Inti Aperture is a blog about travel, Peruvian food, culture, adventure, jobs, tourism, travel, news, teaching English, photography, and living abroad, making it a perfect resource for the traveling expat.
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