Finding Comfort In Chifa

Missing home is inevitable when you move to a foreign country and immerse yourself in a different culture. Although I have been lucky enough to have avoided the overwhelming feeling of homesickness, there are lots of things that I miss on a daily basis. I miss pizza, chicken fingers, masala chai tea, chicken wings, margaritas, being able to understand everyone, being able choose what I want to eat, friends, family, and speaking English – man I love speaking English.

From my list, I think ya’ll can tell that one of the things I miss most is the food. I’ve stated multiple times in this blog Peruvian food can be pretty starch heavy which I am not a fan of. Additionally, as Americans our palates are spoiled. We can access whatever food we want from virtually whatever country we want especially in larger cities like PhiladelphiaIMG_6395[1]. Thai, Indian, Indonesian, Burmese, Jamaican, Nigerian, Mexican, Venezuelan, Turkish, Moroccan, and on and on and on. Unless you’re in Lima, you pretty much only have access to Peruvian food. This can get real old, real quick when your taste buds are used to globetrotting without a passport.

Enter Chifa. I referenced Chifa in an earlier post while talking about my visit to Barrio China in Lima. For all who didn’t read that post, Chifa is the term used to describe a style of cooking that blends Cantonese and Peruvian culinary traditions.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Chinese immigrants from southern China
began to settle in the coast of Peru, especially in Lima. As the Chinese population swelled, these Chinese families began to import ingredients and plant various types of seeds and vegetables from their homeland. Obviously because Peru ain’t China, they were never able to fully replicate the flavors of China. Sometime around 1920, the first Chifa restaurants were opened in Lima. From that point on Chifa was “en vogue.” Wealthy Limenos flocked to these restaurants because of course it was the hipster thing to do in the 1920s. Ever since, Chifa has remained widely popular in Peru.

So the other day when my family chose to eat Chifa for dinner, I didn’t think anything of it until I realized that I was extremely content after I finished my meal. The next day I woke up and I realized that I was so content with the Chifa for two reasons. The first being its different than the Peruvian food I eat day in and day out. Without me even noticing, it IMG_6396[1]made me feel more at home because I was finally able to have that variation of flavor that we are so accustomed to in the U.S. The second reason being that one of my biggest comforts at home is sitting in my bed on a lazy day watching Netlfix and eating Chinese takeout from the place that’s next door to my old apartment. Chinese takeout in bed is just sooooooo comforting and the thought of doing it makes my mouth water and heart smile. And just let it be a rainy day when I have nothing else to do — aahhh what heavenly satisfaction! And although the Chifa I had is still a little different than American Chinese (no General Tsos or eggrolls and different spices) it was still similar enough to give me a little piece of home and comfort.

So, kids, the moral of the story is this: In Peace Corps its easy to let yourself get caught up on all the things you no longer can do or eat and eventually all those things can pile up and weigh on you. But its important to find little things to make you feel just a little bit better or just a little bit more at home.

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