Lima – multicultural capital
At the crossroads of a multitude of cultures, Peru dishes up a cuisine unique in Latin America. It is the Incas we have to thank for giving us potatoes, chocolate, avocados, strawberries and even beans. In the 19th century, the country took in a large Chinese and Japanese communityhich dramatically changed its gastronomy and its culture. Over in Peru, noodles are eaten with aji (local chilli peppers) and an egg is placed delicately on top of Cantonese fried rice – a dish that the Peruvians have nicknamed the ‘airport'. Beyond this extremely rich culinary ecosystem, Lima's Chinese quarter, or Barrio Chino as it is known, is home to a myriad of unusual and secret places, a reflection of the Peruvian city's cosmopolitan nature.
Day 1: Wander around historic Chinatown
A few streets from the historic centre and its imposing buildings with their colonial architecture, you will come across an archway typical of Chinese art. On its colourful stone and marble facade, an inscription in Chinese characters sets the tone: “We are all equal under the same sky”. Head off into this neighbourhood and you will soon find its nerve centre, a street called Calle Capón. It gets its name from pig farming which the area's former inhabitants used to do in days gone by. Arriving in the mid-1800s, Chinese immigrants from Canton or Sichuan started off working in the fields to the south of the capital before moving into the streets of Lima and setting up shops and craft workshops.
In the alleys with their rainbow facades decorated with red dragons, pause a minute to look up at the brightly coloured lanterns hanging from one window to another. Amidst this decor, you will come across the House of Thirteen Coins (Casa de las Trece Monedas), a beautiful residence in Rococo style built in the middle of the 18th century. It now houses the National Afro-Peruvian Museum! Inside, the main exhibits include an important collection of objects dating from the colonial and slave trade period, as well as various documents from the Republican era, such as libertarian decrees and ‘freedom maps'. It certainly gives you an insight into the complex history of the Afro-Peruvian people.
Lima's Chinatown is also renowned for its street food. When the fancy takes you, take a break and indulge. The streets of Chinatown are crammed with tiny food stalls, selling Asian dumplings of every kind, but also Peruvian fresh fish ceviche over their counters.
National Afro-Peruvian Museum (Museo Nacional Afroperuano)
Calle Jirón Ancash no. 542,
Cercado de Lima 15001,
+51 1 426-0689
Day 2: Discover Lima's cosmopolitan cuisine
In Lima then, you will experience an unusual sort of multiculturalism. Chifa, a fusion of Chinese-Peruvian food, is one such example, and a delicious one at that. For the most adventurous palates, the taste experience can start with breakfast. On the menu, you will find dim sum, those bite-sized, crispy or creamy morsels stuffed with vegetables or meat. These are served with chaufa, a fried rice so typical of this Chinese-Peruvian cuisine. If it is too early for you to eat, then just stroll around this neighbourhood which comes to life as soon as day breaks. You will rub shoulders with hundreds of locals as they rummage around the area's huge markets which are known throughout the capital for their bargain prices. You will also discover smaller shops selling varieties of spices and teas that you will not find anywhere else.
At lunchtime, stop off at Wa Lok. Famous throughout the Barrio Chino, the restaurant offers a tasty variety of chaufas, to please vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. As the afternoon wears on, why not give in to temptation and try a pisco sour, this quintessential Peruvian cocktail, which this time comes with lychees?
To round off your second day in style, make a date at San Joy Sao, the best chifa restaurant in the eyes of many Lima residents. The portions are generous and the welcome friendly. Highly recommended are the mixed platters: that way, you get to try forkfuls of different roast meats, sweet-and-sour prawns and a wide variety of vegetables and fried rice. After this trip, Lima's Chinatown , this one-of-a-kind place, will hold no more secrets for you.
Wa Lok Restaurant Oriental
Calle Paruro no. 878
Cercado de Lima 15001,
Chifa San Joy Lao
Calle Capón no. 771
Cercado de Lima,
+51 1 426 7799