Learn Nikkei, the Japanese-Inflected Peruvian Cuisine

When cultures merge, traditional dishes often blend as well. Nikkei is an example of a delicious, unique fusion of Peruvian and Japanese cooking styles.
Photo by Con Poulos / Food styling by Hadas Smirnoff

Sometimes, fusion cuisine is the product of a chef’s imagination. Other times, it’s the result of cultures merging their cooking techniques. The latter is how Peruvian nikkei cuisine was born: Japanese workers came to Peru to build railroads in the late 1800s. Their descendants stayed on and had a profound influence on the food. Nikkei restaurants are now popping up throughout the U.S. Read on to navigate menus like a pro.

Anticuchos

Most cultures offer a version of grilled meat on a skewer. In Japan, it’s robata. In Peru, it’s anticuchos. Beef heart is popular there, but stateside, you’ll find cuts like the ribeye cap at Ruka in Boston.

Pair It: Ruka Sommelier Matt Berkovitch’s pick is the Pietradolce Vigna Barbagalli from Mount Etna in Sicily. “An intense freshness carried by tannic persistence and bright acidity,” he says. “It’s an instinctive pair.”

Nigiri

If ceviche leans Peruvian, this is Japanese. A piece of fish or meat draped over a ball of rice, it’s basically sushi, but spices and beef make it distinctly nikkei.

Pair It: Tomy Lokvicic, the general manager and beverage director at Chicago’s Tanta, recommends Boya Rosé from Chile’s Leyda Valley with the restaurant’s seared wagyu nigiri for its “aromas of raspberry and tangerine, with a mineral finish.”

Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri

Ceviche

The popular, quintessentially Peruvian dish of raw fish cured in lime, chilies and garlic, lends itself perfectly to chefs’ additions and adaptations. At Dôa in Miami, for example, you’ll find dashi, a Japanese stock, in one of the ceviche dishes.

Pair It: Carlos Estarita, chef at Dôa, recommends Seresin Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand, for its “citrus-focused palate, with creamy texture from the small amount of oak aging.”

Tiradito

A love child of sashimi and ceviche, the dish features thin slices of raw fish in a spicy sauce spiked with Peruvian chilies like aji amarillo, and sometimes topped with sweet corn salsa.

Pair It: O Ya in New York City and Boston serves international sushi and sashimi with pairings by Sake Sommelier Nancy Cushman. Her pick is Ichishima Tokubetsu Honjozo. She says the silky, light-flavored sake “supports the aji amarillo flavor, while the dryness cleans up any heat.”

Published on September 15, 2017
Topics: Food and Wine Pairings
About the Author
Layla Schlack
Senior Editor

Schlack is a NATJA-award-winning journalist with eight years’ experience writing and editing cooking, dining, spirits, entertaining and travel stories, as well as developing recipes, in various editorial roles at Fine Cooking and Hemispheres. When she’s not editing Wine Enthusiast’s food and entertaining stories, she can usually be found clanging around her Connecticut kitchen, beverage in hand, trying to re-create some tasty meal she’s had over the course of her travels. Email: lschlack@wineenthusiast.net



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