"Nikkei" refers to a culinary style that combines elements of Japanese and Peruvian cooking traditions. Borrowing from the term used to describe people of the Japanese diaspora and their descendants who settled in other countries, Nikkei cuisine celebrates the new dishes and traditions formed when Japanese immigrants to Peru adapted their food to new ingredients and flavors.
While it might be tempting to write off Nikkei as "fusion," the Japanese-Peruvian traditions are a regional cuisine all their own. Peruvian ingredients, like tropical fish, choclo, and chiles, are prepared using Japanese methods, alongside Japanese ingredients. Its popularity over the years has grown globally, and there may just be a Nikkei restaurant in your town.
Some examples of Nikkei dishes include:
- Ceviche with a Japanese twist: Ceviche, a popular Peruvian dish made from raw fish marinated in citrus juices, is often prepared with a Japanese touch by incorporating ingredients like soy sauce, sesame oil, and even wasabi. Before Japanese-influence, Peruvian ceviches may have marinated for hours or overnight. But ceviches in the Nikkei-style adopt a Japanese sensibility, with a lighter touch and presentation that showcases the fresh fish.
- Tiradito: Similar to ceviche, tiradito features thinly sliced raw fish, but it is typically served with a Japanese-inspired sauce, spicy thanks to Peruvian ajis.
- Sushi rolls with Peruvian ingredients: Sushi rolls might include Peruvian ingredients like avocado, rocoto (a type of chile pepper), and local seafood.
- Nikkei-style tempura: Tempura, a Japanese frying technique, is adapted in Nikkei cuisine to include Peruvian ingredients like camote (Peruvian cousin to the sweet potato), and Peruvian seafood.
- "Fusion" dishes: Other innovative dishes that combine elements of both cuisines might include ingredients like quinoa, yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit), seaweed, and more.