Mitsuharu Tsumura

crediti: Brambilla - Serrani

crediti: Brambilla - Serrani


calle San Martín 399
(incrocio con calle Colón)
Miraflores - Lima

Peruvian of Japanese origins, from Maido in Lima, he’s considered the greatest living Nikkei chef. His Maido, established in 2009, is now at number 10 in The World 50 Best Restaurants, and at number one in the Latin Americas's 50 Best Restaurants. Some background: many Japanese people who emigrated to Peru after WW1 (today they’re around 60 thousand) started opening restaurants where they served local Creole dishes, because that’s what people wanted. They gradually added some variations to the recipes, which came natural to them, given their tradition at home: like using lots of fish.

In Pre-Colombian Peru, the was a strong connection with the sea, but it was less popular under the Conquistadores. In the early 20th Century Peruvians ate fish, but only a little and only few did. It was either fried or marinated at length in lime juice. Full stop. «Until fifty years ago nobody ate octopus in Peru. Fishermen would throw it away. If you walked on the beach, you’d see all this octopus on the ground, and the Japanese would take it» (Tsumura). Something similar happened with eel and calamari, sea snails and sea weed, and in a way even with tuna and prawns, scallops or mussels, which were once considered “food for the poor”. Thanks to Nikkei people, today they’re used to make fabulous ceviche. «The Japanese people have revolutionised our dish» admitted Gastón Acurio.

So here’s what Nikkei is today: neither a Japanese cuisine with Peruvian influences, nor a Peruvian cuisine with Japanese touches. It’s the meeting of two people separated by 20.000 km, the result of necessity and instinct. The necessity is that of Japanese immigrants in Peru who had to adapt their food style to the products of their new homeland, and they surprisingly found out they’re often close to their tradition: fish, vegetables, and rice. Instinct led them to a natural, unaware fusion of two styles so far apart. Decades of forced cultural – and culinary – contaminations, though millennial and therefore tenacious, gave life to something new and extraordinary. «The contrast is in the general tone. Peruvian cuisine is hard rock, strong, spicy, vibrant. Japanese cuisine is like classical music, it’s more subtle, delicate and dedicated to product» (Tsumura).

Tsumura is directing his avantgarde research to the Amazon forest, combining exotic fruit with the intense flavours of Nikkei cuisine: a take on umami from the greatest pluvial forest of the planet.

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Carlo Passera

journalist born in 1974, for many years he has covered politics, mostly, and food in his free time. Today he does exactly the opposite and this makes him very happy. As soon as he can, he dives into travels and good food. Identità Golose's editor in chief