It has been over 110 years since the first mass migration of Japanese in 1899 to Peru. As Japanese migrants started afresh in Peru over the succeeding years, they imbibed some of the significant elements of the Peruvian culture whilst still practicing Japanese customs and traditions. This led to the culmination of a subculture known as Nikkei culture or cuisine. A clear manifestation of this fusion of Japan and Peru’s culinary aspects is the legacy left by an Okinawan family who manages a restaurant called Inti Raimi.
It took more than 20 years before an authentic Japanese-Peruvian restaurant known as Inti Raimi would come to life in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture. Before the restaurant was established, Okinawan-born Miyahira Rosa Hatsue, one of the many Japanese whose grandparents had joined the first mass migration to embrace the Andean culture in Peru migrated with her mother and younger brother in 1964 to tend to her grandmother’s illness. Years later she married a fellow Okinawan emigrant and together, they started a wholesale business in Peru.
After a 27-year stay on Andean soil, she decided to return to Japan and stay for good because of the unstable economy in Peru and the rise of Sendero Luminoso from the 1980s to early 1990s. As more Japanese returned home from Peru, Miyahira-san opened her restaurant which she named Inti Raimi which means a festival of the sun in Quechua. Inti Raimi in Peruvian culture is usually held during winter to honor the god Inti and it is also considered as one of the most important religious ceremonies of the Inca. Through Inti Raimi, Miyahira-san hopes to acquaint Japanese people with Peruvian culture.
The restaurant Inti Raimi operates with the basic culinary principle of the integration of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine. This means that distinct Peruvian seasonings are added to the basic ingredients to include a wide variety of chili and the taste of the dishes should not be adjusted to the Japanese palate.
To ensure that the flavors remain Peruvian, the chefs in the restaurant are from Peru. However, one thing that binds Japanese and Peruvian cuisine together is the love for soy sauce. While the flavor strictly remains Peruvian, fried tofu is substituted for beef when making lomo saltado so that vegetarians are still able to eat at the restaurant. Inti Raimi also serves ceviche which features the Japanese fish cake kamaboko, Nikkei tiradito where the only difference with sashimi is that wasabi is replaced with a special sauce which is a mixture of Peruvian pepper aji amarillo, lemon/lime and soy sauce.
Peruvian beers such as Cusqueña and Cristal are also served along with the very famous Inca Kola (a soda flavored with herbs and chichi morada (a beverage made out of purple corn). The price of the dishes ranges from 4,000 yen to 5,000 yen: Seems to be expensive but the food is definitely worth a try. For those who are into Peruvian cuisine and fusion style dishes, you can visit Inti Raimi in their new location in Azabujuban, Tokyo!
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