What came wrapped in a very neat, clean and simple package was a dazzling surprise to the palate and a story to be told. Chinocharapa is not just about the very, very, good food, it’s an experience to which, without a doubt, you will want to return.
Chinocharapa is a startup that opened just a couple of weeks before the quarantine began in Peru. Thankfully, it was not one of the young companies that closed; on the contrary, the situation became a period that allowed them to improve upon what they had learned in those few days that they were open.
Chinocharapa learned to excel in the home delivery department. The food arrived in packaging that was mainly paper and cardboard (good for those of us who don’t like to use so much plastic) with the necessary branding quota to make them look unique.
We opened up the container and… gosh! good for us! To be absolutely honest, I expected something more greasy and full of smell: a mix of Chinatown and Mercado de Belén. But, everything had a flawless and inviting presentation; even more: the colors. It was like seeing through a kaleidoscope.
When I say the presentation was inviting, I honestly mean that even toddlers and adult picky eaters would be impressed. The owner, Christopher Vásquez, is originally a publicist and when he got serious about food he specialized in restaurant management. Knowing this, you can imagine that with Chinocharapa nothing is improvised.
The restaurant, at its core, is a chaufería, which means it specializes in serving the Peruvian-style fried rice (chaufa). Christopher decided to make it as such because he considers chaufa to be, “a generous dish to receive all kinds of inputs and mix; and the mix is made by me; that mix is me.”
Vásquez comes from a Loretana-Cantonese family. The amalgamation of cultures and flavors, Asian and Amazonian, that built this man also forged the restaurant. He says, “My vacations, each year to Iquitos [in the department of Loreto, Peru] and my regular visits to Jirón Huanta [part of Lima’s Chinatown] allowed my palate to accept both flavor profiles.”
We tried the Combo Sheretero and the Piqueo Peque Peque. The names come from the Peruvian oriental living culture. As Christopher explains: “Sherete means your lover, your partner,” so this combo is obviously planned for two. And the Piqueo Peque Peque is designed for the little ones in the house; “in the jungle, it is colloquial speak to double the use of words, it is a kind of rhythm when speaking.”
The Sheretero includes: a large Amazonian Chaufa Mix, Mela Mela Beans, 4 Pork Wantons, Amazonian Tartar and Cocona Sauce.
The Amazonian Chaufa Mix is the center of the combo. I remember closing my eyes to taste the first bite and, to me, it didn’t taste totally like chifa nor totally Amazonian, either. My journey began with this dish: every bite brought forth memories that took me outside of Lima. I could clearly taste and experience the turmeric, the ginger, the green onions – all subtly balanced. The rice was not fried or greasy, it was slightly moist and the tortilla rolls do not go unnoticed.
As a side, we had the unforgettable Mela Mela Beans– my favorite, for sure. As Christopher explained, this Ucayali bean is particularly sweet, which lends itself very easily to mixing. Chinocharapa created something glorious with this dish: a sweet mix with sacha culantro (jungle cilantro), beans and first-rate Amazonian chorizo. It has the taste of home- of something prepared by mom or grandma, that is, someone with kind hands and a noble heart who strives to give you something extremely tasty.
The combo comes with two sauces: the Amazonian Tartar, a tartar sauce that contains cocona (an edible berry fruit from the Amazon), sacha culantro and mayonnaise. It is a delicious sauce that I used on everything. Likewise, the Cocona Sauce is made with cocona, lemon, onion and other herbs. In my opinion, it goes perfect with the arroz chaufa.
The Amazonian wantons have no equal: perfectly and delicately crunchy– they seem gourmet, nothing coarse. Because of the delicious and large amount of filling they seem like empanadas.
The Piqueo Peque Peque includes: Amazonian jerky, chorizo and plantain. By itself it is a success; a kind of Amazonian salchipapa (a Peruvian street dish made of hot dog and fries). This dish is for that picky person in the group because even though everything is fried, each element is gently and delicately seasoned without losing its origin. You can’t lose with this one.
Another very cool thing about Chinocharapa is that it makes a real effort to establish alliances with suppliers from the interior of Peru, or other partners that work with local producers. This is how he buys supplies from Ucayali, San Martin, Loreto, and so on. The owner is a true cultivator of ideas: with simple disposition, restless motivation and a young spirit. It is very easy to identify with Christopher, with his worldview and his stories.
As he said, “Chinocharapa says a lot about who we are [as Peruvians]. I have put all my chips here and I do it with all my love.” Chinocharapa is a true evidence of how contemporary Peruvians show their national, or criollo, identity and get the best of it in projects and products of quality and worldwide originality.
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 12pm-8pm
You can order via Whatsapp at: +51981729213