The Chifas of San Borja
A new Barrio Chino has emerged in a Lima suburb and its restaurants now surpass the original.
There are chifas, Chinese-Peruvian restaurants, found on nearly every corner of Lima, Peru. Many of the best examples of this genre of restaurant were once clustered around the Barrio Chino in the center of Lima, where they first appeared in the country. However, a new
Chinatown has emerged in the suburb of San Borja. This is now where one should go to experience Lima’s best chifas.
Chinese Peruvians, also known as tusán, mostly arrived in several waves of migration from China’s Guangdong Province in the second half of the 19th-century. Many came to work as contract laborers and at some point, in the 1920s, the first chifas appeared on Calle Capón in what would become Lima’s original Chinatown. Many Cantonese ingredients and cooking styles, such as stir frying and soy sauce, were soon adapted by Peru’s national cuisine, such was the case with the dish lomo saltado.
There had been little evolution among chifas in Lima for decades, but over the last few years several chifas, some old, some new, have begun to stand out. Nearly all of them can be found in San Borja, where new Chinese markets, dim sum halls, and chifas are increasingly appearing. Even Gastón Acurio is opening a branch of Madam Tusan there. Here are my recommendations on which San Borja chifas to go now:
If you only had time to visit one chifa in Peru I would say to go to Haita and I would tell you to order the pejesapo al vapor. This gelatinous pejesapo, aka frogfish, is part of the Gobiesocidae family and gets steamed whole and is covered in a sauce made of serves soy, shiitake mushrooms, and ginger. Additional dishes worth trying include their chita al vapor, gaunan noodles, and the patita de chancho con vinagre y kion (pig feet with vinegar and ginger). Avenida Aviacion 2701; Facebook page.
You could call Titi the original San Borja chifa. It has been open since 1958, though it moved from the Barrio Chino to San Borja, opening on Avenida Javier Prado in 1992. It’s upscale than the typical chifa with its hand carved wood ceiling and elegant wall panels, and you’ll spend more here than elsewhere in the neighborhood. However, the specialties here are done better than anywhere else in Lima, like their pato al sillao, the Shanghái-style duck that’s de-boned with a crunchy skin; pichones al horno, roasted pigeon covered with a malta syrup; or the conchas tau si, scallops in a black bean sauce. Avenida Javier Prado Este 1212; chifatiti.com.
Salón Xin Yan
Located an elevator ride above a Chinese market, this dim sum hall is an off the radar gem. While many of the plates are stanard, the dim sum – mimpao, gyozas, chicken feet, garlic pork ribs, mondongo de chancho – make it one of the best breakfast destinations in Lima. Avenida San Luis 1950; Facebook page.
4 Seas International House
Within what appears to be a rather average chifa is a special menu full of dishes you won’t find anywhere else in Lima. There are two menus here: one normal with the typical. Plates that you’ll find at every other chifa in Lima, and another in Chinese (with Spanish translations). Go for the Chinese menu and try the caracol saltado (stir fried sea snails) or medusa (jellyfish) if they have it. Avenida Aviación 3124; chifainternacional.com.