Nikkei cuisine is an harmonious synthesis between the culinary tradition of Peru and that of Japan. A style that melted into a dish gives harmonies of colors, flavors and aromas with the best of the two countries, so different in appearance. Nikkei cuisine puts the delicacy and fantasy of the Japanese culinary tradition on the table with the strong, vibrant and spicy flavors of Peru and Brazil. The decade that has ended has seen the explosion of this new trend, very popular in Canada and the United States (as well as in Peru and Brazil) and which is gradually taking possession of the kitchens of the Old Continent.
How did the Japanese and Peruvians get to know each other?
Japan is known as one of the most closed and traditionalist states in the world: in fact, Nikkei cuisine was born from the last Japanese Diaspora that occurred during the colonial period. The term "Nikkei" refers to all Japanese emigrants to foreign lands, about 4 million, most of whom reside in Brazil and Peru. The meeting with the two South American peoples brought a unique contamination in history because, although at the end of the Second World War most of the Japanese returned back home, the fusion of the three cultures on the table was total thanks to the inventiveness of the chefs .
It took a long time for people to blend together and it took the help of sport and food. In Brazil in the early 1920s the master Mistuyo Maeda laid the foundations for Burajiru no jūjutsu, commonly known as Brazilian ju-jitsu; in Peru the Japanese were passionate about football, without ever reaching an adequate level but it was a big help. In both countries there were great changes in the late 1900s: Japanese technical efficiency and South American imagination united in one style.
It is therefore not a cuisine that talks about social integration. It is a modern cuisine, codified less than 30 years ago thanks to a group of Japanese-Peruvian chefs who are defining it day after day. It has no traditions to limit creativity, but only two ancient gastronomic cultures to guide it: this makes Nikkei cuisine one of the most changing proposals on the world tables.
Fathers and sons of the Nikkei cuisine
Nikkei cuisine does not have a father, it is the daughter of Time and Sea as philosophical concepts rather than real entities. To give an idea of what all this means is Mitsuharu Tsumura, born in Lima with clear Japanese origins, the greatest exponent of Nikkei cuisine: "Up to 50 years ago nobody in Peru tasted octopus, in fact fishermen threw it away. You could go to the beaches and see all these abandoned octopuses, with the Japanese people who collected them". Over time, Peruvians also began to taste all those “scraps”, that were delicious for Japanese people, until the creation of such a sophisticated "codification" that the Adrià brothers opened a restaurant in Barcelona dedicated to Nikkei cuisine: Patka, the Temple of this tradition in Europe.
In Peru the temple is Maido, Tsumura's restaurant, ranked second in the list of the best 50 restaurants in Latin America and 13th in the ranking of the best restaurants in the world: Maido is the emblem of Nikkei cuisine.
What are the dishes of Nikkei cuisine?
The trait d’union is definitely fish and then we often see sushi and ceviche or algae with tropical fruits. Very interesting is the miso soup enriched with hearts of palm or chili, and also Peruvian sushi, a very spicy type of sushi prepared with aji amarillo, a Peruvian chili. A lot of emotions gives the gilthead bream with yuzu rice (a citrus fruit from the Far East) and jalapeño. The symbolic dish of Peruvian Nikkei is probably tiradito, a marinade of ceviche cut in the style of sashimi; while for Brazil it is mandioquinha, a tuber very popular in Brazil, used in a soup with miso.