NEW YORK (Reuters) - Award-winning chef José Andrés’ China Chilcano restaurant in Washington D.C. showcases Peruvian dishes influenced by Chinese and Japanese immigrants who moved to the South American country in the 19th century.
Andrés, who helped popularize Spanish tapas in America, added another eatery to his 20 restaurants with Beefsteak, which focuses on vegetables.
The 45-year-old Spanish native spoke to Reuters about his passion for Peruvian cuisine and the charity work he does in Haiti.
Q: What inspired you to open China Chilcano?
A: Peruvian is such an incredibly diverse cuisine. I could not believe how amazing it was the first time I tried it and the possibilities to create something new with Criollo, Nikkei and Chifa (local Peruvian fusion cuisines) are endless.
Q: Why does the pairing of Asian dishes with Peruvian ingredients work? Did you have to make any changes for China Chilcano?
A: To me, soy sauce is the DNA of Asian cuisine, and for Peruvian, it’s the ají Amarillo pepper. When you put these two things together, you get an incredible taste with layers of flavor and heat. When developing the menu for China Chilcano, my team and I wanted to celebrate the juxtaposition of Chifa, Nikkei and Criollo, so we made very little changes. For Chifa, we have incredible chaufas (fried rice) and siu mai (dumplings), Japanese-inspired ceviches for Nikkei, and native dishes like the Aji de Gallina for Criollo.
Q: Did you have to study with Peruvian chefs or are these dishes your interpretation of what you have eaten there?
A: The only way to truly know a cuisine is to immerse yourself in that culture. My team and I have taken a number of trips to Peru for research. Of course, we will always have our own interpretations, but we try to remain as authentic as possible.
Q: What can diners expect from Beefsteak?
A: Beautiful, sexy vegetables take center stage. Beefsteak is designed to feed the many, making it easy and affordable to eat food that is good for us.
Q: Why did you start the non-profit World Central Kitchen in Haiti?
A: After the earthquake there in 2010, I started it to empower those people by training them in culinary skills, teaching them how to use clean cook stoves to keep them safe and healthy, and overall giving them the skills they need to support their families and their communities.
Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Patricia Reaney and Marguerita Choy