KASHIWA, Chiba -- At the home of Carlos Uemura here east of Tokyo, the appetizing smell of sauteed meat and vegetables wafts through the kitchen. The 39-year-old employee of a travel agency was using a frying pan to cook "Lomo Saltado," or jumping beef, a traditional home delicacy indispensable during the yearend and New Year season in Peru. The tomato and potato used in the cuisine originate in the South American country, while the beef came from Spain, and the long green onion is native to China.
The defining ingredients for the dish, says Carlos, a Peruvian of Japanese descent, are the paste of aji amarillo, or yellow pepper, and soy sauce made from fermented soybeans. "There are a number of theories about its origin, but it is said that this cuisine was brought in to Peru by Chinese immigrants in the 19th Century," he explained. "It's a fusion of different cultures."
Peru, where the Inca Empire once thrived, is known as a "country of gourmets." It has accepted and refined a variety of food items and cooking methods brought in by immigrants from all over the world, including Europe, Africa and Asia. "We selected the very best of food culture from the world," said a proud Carlos.
In Peru where many of the residents are Catholics, a Christmas atmosphere fills the air from Dec. 24 through Jan. 6, or epiphany -- a feast day to celebrate the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ. Each family celebrates Christmas on Dec. 25 by eating a big roasted turkey and giving presents to children. At the Uemura household, children have fun by looking for money and sweets hidden in the Christmas tree on Jan. 6, like the Japanese traditional ritual of parents or elderly relatives giving out otoshidama allowances to children during the New Year holidays.
Carlos first came to Japan 25 years ago when he was 13, on Christmas Eve. "The Christmas tree was gone right after Dec. 25 and the traditional gate decoration (of kadomatsu comprising bamboo and pine) was put in place. I was really surprised by that," recalled Carlos of his first encounter with a different culture.
Another yearend and New Year treat for Peruvian children, like Carlos's daughter Anjudien, 5, is panettone, dome-shaped sweet bread that they eat almost every day. It is made by adding raisins, dried papaya and other fruits into a dough leaven with panettone yeast. Some families make this at home but most buy the bread at shops. The milky smell and sweet texture like raisin bread are really attractive. Originally an Italian delicacy, panettone is now part of the Peruvian home cuisine culture.
On New Year's Eve, family members get together and eat 12 pieces of raison in a traditional practice. Carlos's wife Elizabeth, 34, says it's "raisins to ring in the new year" like the Japanese traditional food of buckwheat soba noodles to mark the end of one year and the start of a new one. Peruvians wear clothes in the lucky color of yellow around this time of the year, filling the streets with vibrancy.
In 2019, Japan and Peru celebrate the 120th anniversary of Japanese immigration into the South American country. A number of cultural exchange programs are planned for the occasion, and Carlos has high hopes for them. "We have different cultures and traditions, but we share the feeling of praying for happiness and prosperity in the New Year period," said Carlos.
(Japanese original by Keisuke Umeda, Lifestyle News Department)
*Main ingredients (serves 4): 250 gram beef fillet; three pieces of potatoes; 1 purple onion; pinch of garlic paste; 1 gram of cumin powder; dash of pepper and coriander; large spoon of soy sauce; two small spoons of vinegar; pinch of aji amarillo paste; small spoon of salt; three large spoons of cooking oil; some frying oil.
1) Fry peeled potatoes cut into sticks.
2) Cut beef fillet into sticks 5-6 cm long, and add with garlic paste.
3) Cut tomatoes and purple onion into wedges, and mix them with the ali Amarillo paste.
4) Heat the frying pan, saute beef fillet over high heat. Dust cumin powder and pepper, add purple onion and tomato, and saute for another few minutes.
5) Add the fried potatoes and mix with coriander.
6) Adjust the flavor with salt, soy sauce and vinegar. Serve on a plate.
This is the first part of a series.
As people around the world welcome the New Year, the Mainichi Shimbun has invited foreign residents in Japan to show their way of introducing their home dishes typical of this time of the year.