Japanese immigration to Peru began with the Meiji era (1868-1912). At this time, Japan underwent significant vertiginous changes; consequently, many farmers decided to leave their lands due to high taxes and unemployment.
In 1897, the Japanese empire established agreements with the government of Peru for the arrival of Japanese agricultural workers to the Peruvian coast; this is the first encounter between Peruvian and Japanese culture.
It has been 120 years since the moment when these Japanese immigrants arrived in the South American country after a long journey on the Sakura Maru ship. To adapt to this new lifestyle, they initially dedicated themselves to farm work but then joined other family businesses, despite not mastering the language.
Currently, immigrants and their descendants in Peru make up a community of more than 100,000 people who have made significant contributions in various fields such as politics, economy, and culture.
This immigration has resulted in a cultural exchange that has been reflected in various ways, generating a process called “Nikkei culture.” The Japanese seated on the coast retained their customs, but also included habits of Peruvian culture, especially gastronomy.
This brought with it a sea of flavors to Peru, but what is behind this gastronomic history?
Many of the Japanese immigrants grew up and settled in Peru; others returned to Japan. Those who chose to stay absorbed Peruvian culture through the palate, so those who dedicated themselves to the gastronomic business mixed Japanese and Peruvian cuisine.
The result at the gastronomic level was a fusion of flavors that transmits the union of Japanese and Peruvian culture. This combination uses mostly natural ingredients from Japan and Peru such as fish and meat but adds native condiments from Peru such as chili or rocoto appropriate to the Japanese and Peruvian palate.
At first, the Japanese took time to get used to the taste of Peruvian cuisine, which is why they added Japanese products such as soy sauce.
They also appropriated popular dishes such as sauteed loin (a typical meal with Japanese influence) which used to be prepared with fried tofu. Nowadays, other dishes such as the famous ceviche have been mixed in a recipe that uses the mild flavor of kamaboko, or the nikkei tiradito, a type of fused marinade that is accompanied with a sauce consisting of soy sauce — Peruvian rocoto, lemon, and Peruvian chili pepper to replace the wasabi that was not in Peru.
Flavors of the Peruvian Nikkei culture
Some dishes that combine the flavor of Peruvian and Japanese cuisine are the following.
It is a dish made with a lemon sauce; it is accompanied by two types of corn from Peru.
The kamaboko has an exquisite flavor that contrasts deliciously with the acid sauce.
They are strips of fish very similar to sashimi; they are mixed with a sauce that integrates soy sauce, Peruvian rocoto, and lemon, which gives it a refreshing touch.
It consists of a picturesque menu based on boiled potatoes accompanied by four different sauces made with chili, olive, huacatay grass, and rocoto — a gourmet of colors and flavors.
It is a super nutritious dish made with cooked mondongo; its secret is based on the ingredient yellow pepper, usually accompanied by rice. It can also be prepared with other meats or seafood.
Pescado al Sillao
This recipe consists of cooking fish in soy sauce; it is well known in Peru with the term “Sillao” (for Chinese phonetics if Yao) highlighting the Asian influence of this dish.
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