Chifas in Peru

For newcomers to Lima (Peru), it is inevtiable that they will see little restaurants known as chifas around down.  Here is a story on

Debbie and Wayne Brinkley thought they had a plan. They’d eat in as many Chinese chifas—diners—as they could to learn where the Chinese living in Lima, Peru, gather. When they weren’t eating in chifas, they’d drive around Lima, marking locations on a map.

They ate and marked, and marked some more. They noted more than 100 chifas on a single street alone. Little did they know they’d embarked on an impossible mission. There are almost 6,000 chifas in Lima.

Chifas are the center of Chinese life in Lima, regardless of socioeconomic level. Most chifas are family owned and operated. Living in an environment that is at the opposite end of the cultural spectrum from their own, Chinese are drawn to the familiarity, solidarity and sense of safety that chifas offer.

The prevalence of chifas in Peru is due to the presence of an ethnic minority with a tradition of serving cooking in a cost-effective manner.  We will now look at some survey data from the TGI Peru Study.  This is a survey of 3,000 persons between the ages of 12 to 64 years old conducted in Lima (Peru) during 2002.  The study does not cover chifa patronage, but it does have a question about eating out in general.  According to this study, 29% of the respondents have eaten out in restaurants (note: not fast food restaurants) in the last 30 days.  The next two charts show the breakdown by socio-economic level, age/sex, occupation and marital status.

(source: 2002 TGI Peru)

(source: 2002 TGI Peru)

By comparison, the incidence of having eaten at fast food restaurants (e.g. McDonald's, KFC, etc) is 55% in the last 30 days.  However, the chifas are low-priced, low-cost family-run local institutions which are not yet threatened by the massive fast food chain restaurants.

(posted by Roland Soong, 10/05/2003)

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