Those of you familiar with Chinese (either Mandarin or Cantonese) may be looking at the title and thinking “that must be a typo. Chifa isn’t a word.” Mandarin speakers want an “n” on the end to make it chifan. Eat food. Cantonese speakers are thinking sihk faan. Eat food.
But trust me on this; it’s a real word!
Chifa (pronounced chee-fah) refers to Peruvian Chinese food. Brought to the country by early migrants, today chifa is part of the national cuisine of Peru. In fact, one of the so-called national dishes of Peru is a chifa dish, as is explained in the video below.
It’s not surprising that Chinese food has become a part of the culinary life of Peru since it has one of the oldest and largest Chinese diaspora communities in South America, estimated at around 1.5 million. The first wave of Chinese immigrants came in the late 1880s, mostly as indentured servants who were looking for a way out of gambling debts incurred in Macau. Later immigrants came to work in the mines, on plantations, and on railroads.
This video, titled Why is Peru’s National Dish Chinese? is a fascinating introduction to the Chinese diaspora community in Peru through the story of their cuisine, called chifa. It’s divided into three chapters. The first chapter provides a history of the community. Chapter two looks at the rise of Lima’s Chinatown and the development of chifa; chapter three is a cooking lesson on how to make the dish, called lomo saltado.
The most recent wave of Chinese immigrants speak Mandarin and work primarily in the thousands of chifa restaurants scattered throughout the country. While many in the earlier generations of immigrants converted to Catholicism, very few of these newer immigrants have heard the gospel.
According to our friends at World Team, there are “less than 1,000 believers among this first generation Chinese in Peru, and only two Chinese churches in Lima with about 150 worshippers on Sunday. Even at 1,000 believers, less than 1% of the Chinese population in Lima profess Christ.”
They are looking to build a team of Chinese speaking workers to reach this diaspora community in Lima. To learn more about this unique opportunity, please visit the World Team website. It’s a wonderful example of how the “new normal” is creating new paradigms and opportunities. In other words, if you sense God calling you to be involved in outreach to Chinese people, maybe that means going to Peru!
In the meantime, here are more resources to help you learn about the Chinese in Peru:
Image credit: Chifa Faucett by F Delventhal, via Flickr
Joann Pittman is Vice President of Partnership and China Engagement and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University …View Full Bio
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