Food and the World – Globalization, Migration, Food, Fusion – Chifa in Quito, Ecuador – by Megan Gonrowski. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
While studying abroad in Ecuador, I lived with a host family in Quito. I loved the homey feeling of living with a large family. Especially because once everyone was home for the night, we all sat around the table to eat dinner. The size of the meal usually depended on the time of day and the day of the week. On the weekends, dinner was a large early meal. On a late weeknight, dinner was often fresh bread and hot cocoa or tea. However, I was surprised one afternoon when my host sister brought home what appeared to be Chinese food in the form of fried rice. It was not until I had lived in Ecuador long enough to start to ask questions about this so called “Chinese” food. The dish I ate looked like vegetable fried rice with tofu squares and the dish often came with soy sauce or aji (hot sauce). The only unusual aspect about the dish is that it came from a restaurant called Chifa La Reina. The word that was supposed to be China was replaced with the word Chifa.
Once I had noticed this apparent irregularity in the name, I started noticing that every “Chinese” restaurant in Quito had the word Chifa in the title instead of China. So finally, the next time my family brought home food from the Chifa restaurant, I asked them why the spelling was strange. The explanation I received was something along the lines of “well…it isn’t really Chinese food. The popular dishes are from Peru and they call it Chifa.” So, after this I had some answers on the root of the strange spelling, but still no answers. The fried rice dish that I had been eating was called chaulafán, but it has no translation to English. However, after a little research, I realized the Ecuadorian word for the dish is different than the Peruvian name for the same dish. In Peru, the dish is called arroz chaufa which translates to fried rice. The Ecuadorians had created a similar word from the word fried or chaufa to create chaulafán.
After understanding where the dish had originated. I looked into the history of why Peru would have a famous dish that appears to be Chinese. After some quick researching, I learned that Chinese immigrants from the southern region of China had been migrating to Lima, Peru in the 19th and 20th century. I also learned that Lima has its own version of China Town where the first Chifa restaurants were created in the 1920s. Chifa being the word for the Chinese-Peruvian fusion dishes that are very popular in Peru. The Chifa food did not become popular in Ecuador until 1970 when Chinese immigrant began to settle in Ecuador. Now, at least in Quito, there is a Chifa restaurant every few blocks and the local people seem to love the Chinese-Peruvian dishes like arroz chaufa or how Ecuadorians call it, chaulafán.
Megan serves as an assistant editor for NSR.
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