Welcome to the vibrant culinary world of Nikkei Cuisine

Taste new flavours, sample new dishes and explore new cuisine horizons from Peruvian celebrity Chef Eduardo Vargas at Shangri-La Chiang Mai

By | Thu 18 Apr 2024

Shangri-La Chiang Mai will be hosting Peruvian celebrity Chef Eduardo Vargas next month, as he presents a first for Chiang Mai’s food lovers – Nikkei cuisine.

If your knowledge of Nikkei cuisine is on the thin side, don’t fret. When asked to write this promotion for the upcoming gastronomic event, I had to go back to the drawing board and do some serious Googling. After all, how does one write about a cuisine one has never tasted?

The first thing which surprised me after some rather mouthwatering research was that it wasn’t all completely foreign to me. In fact, I had tasted some bites of Nikkei before; I just didn’t know it. If you have ever had ceviche, the famous Peruvian marinated raw seafood dish, then voila, you have tried Nikkei cuisine! In fact Nobu Matsuhisa, famed for his Nobu restaurant brand, which is arguably the world most successful and famous fine dining restaurant chain, has long been serving Nikkei cuisine in his restaurants, launching the trend with his first flagship restaurant in Los Angeles which opened in 1973.

One misconception I have to get out of the way is that Nikkei is not some fusion fad. This is a centuries-old and distinctive cuisine rooted in culture and tradition. It has history, it has story, it is home grown and it has some pretty hefty-weighted ambassadors, including Chef Nobu and Chef Eduardo, who opened China’s first tapas restaurant twenty years ago to great acclaim and is the celebrated chef of four restaurants in Shanghai, including the award-winning flagship Azur Tapas Lounge, Ceviche Peruvian Cafe, Azur Urban, and Colca showcasing inspiring modern Peruvian delicacies. He is also currently pioneering and promoting Nikkei cuisine in China as well as across Asia.

During the last decade of the 19th century, thousands of Japanese families migrated to Peru to work in fields and in building the railroads, with around 100,000 Peruvians today claiming to have some degree of Japanese ancestry. The newly arrived immigrants soon discovered that Peru offered an abundance of produce with which to cook: it’s rainforests were teeming with fauna and flora, its mountains suitable for growing cool weather produce, and its shores, which shared the same ocean as Japan’s, were brimming with bountiful catches of seafood. All of this combined with the deep knowledge of local produce which had been passed down by indigenous peoples, the exotic spices which travelled in boats carrying African slaves from the Caribbean, the colonizers’ introduction of European cuisines to the continent as well as the burgeoning Asian influences from both Japanese and later on Chinese immigrants, all of which was going to brew and simmer for centuries — exploding onto our foodscape as one of the most exciting and acclaimed food trends around the world today.

“In Peru we have Nikkei people who can trace their ancestry back five generations,” Chef Eduardo told Citylife. “Nikkei food uses Peruvian ingredients with Japanese traditions, roots and techniques. This is how you have spinoffs such as our famous ceviche and causa.” (Traditionally Peruvians would ‘cook’ the cubed raw fish in lime for hours, even overnight, but with Japanese sashimi techniques, and local Peruvian lime and chilis, the fresh fish was ‘cooked’ in mere minutes. Similarly, the ubiquitous rice based sushi has been recreated using potato based ingredients and is now embedded into the Nikkei cuisine as causa.)

Chef Eduardo, whose late grandmother Teresa Ocampo was Peru’s ‘Julia Childs’, grew up being inspired by her love of food. Having worked in kitchens around the world from Toronto to the Seychelles; Lima to Shanghai, Chef Educardo has become the undisputed ambassador for Peruvian and later, after returning to Peru to study the cuisine more in depth, Nikkei cuisine here in Asia.

For his restaurants in China, Chef Eduardo imports many raw ingredients from Thailand and Cambodia, citing the similarities in ingredients from this region with Peru’s culinary staples — chili peppers, green lime, cilantro and lemongrass — which makes this upcoming food event here in Chiang Mai even more exciting. One of the challenges guest chefs have when cooking with new produce is replicating the DNA of the dish, in our case, we don’t have to worry as our Thai and Peruvian flavour profiles share many serendipitous similarities.

From the 1st to the 4th of May you too will get the chance to delve into this exotic, colourful, vibrant, punchy and bold cuisine, as Chef Eduardo will be offering two different dining options, a six course set dinner as well as a brunch, featuring a truly exciting spread to showcase Nikkei cuisine in a first ever event here in Chiang Mai.

For the six course dinner at the Dhala Pool Garden Restaurant, and for only 1,688 net per person, an appetiser spread of exotic sounding ingredients and dishes include octopus, potato confit, olive sauce, piquillo chimichurri, crab potato causa with red chili emulsion, caviar and avocado sauce, Peruvian chili chicken croquets and huancaina aioli.

Next, we will be treated to a very exotic sounding Inka bread served with caramelised onion and black garlic butter before dining on a blue river prawn and hamachi ceviche served with citrus ‘tiger’s milk’, corn and sweet potato. Tiger’s milk is the marinade used to ‘cook’ the seafood, which can be anything from scollops to prawns, fish to octopus. It mixes the juices of the seafood with lime, chilies and cilantro, as well as onions, garlic, celery and ginger, even a little dollop of milk for a creamy texture. A chupe seafood chowder follows, brimming with feta, corn and quail’s egg.

Next, is a freshly caught Thai red snapper infused with Peruvian flavours, panca sauce, pea purée and Peruvian ravioli. The final dish before the dessert is a charolais beef tenderloin with tomato-aji pepper sauce, purple potatoes and baby mushroom salsa. The grand meal will end with the local Skugga Chocolate Farm’s organic cacao three ways served foam, ice cream and nougatine with traces of three milks and tart pisco jelly.

Now, if you don’t feel like a formal sit down, then make sure you book the 1st May brunch for only 1,388 baht per person which will offer up several opportunities to explore the Nikkei cuisine. There will be a ceviche corner where a smorgasbord of ceviches will be served, with cool sounding names like the Don Ceviche which promises fresh seabass in tiger’s milk served with sweet potato and corn. An intriguing sounding Nikkei tuna brûlée and many other cold dishes from vegetarian to poultry and seafood. The BBQ station will feature grilled octopus in kalamata aioli and piquillo salsa served with stir fried vegetables (yes, the stir fry Asian tradition is a strong part of the Nikkei cuisine).

There will also be elevated street food to sample, to give a comprehensive intro to the great variety of Nikkei cuisine available, such as the beef heart anticucho, a dish of the Andes which predates the Columbian era and is found on streets across the country. There is even a ‘Crispy Things’ station which sounds fun with all sorts of dips and crunchy fried bites. And then there is the hot station which has our umami buds a tingling with its scallops a la parmesana – with pisco and lime, no less – beef anticicho, a tenderloin with yucca foam, cremini mushrooms, huancaina and panca glaze and the delightful sounding aji de gallina, a shredded Peruvian chicken served with spicy sauces and rice. They will even have a noodle and a rice station where you can order up a pasta with beef flank steak or tenderloin stir fried with a number of spices or a Peruvian spicy seafood fried rice.

Make sure you make room for the dessert station too which will feature the expected churros with an oozy warm chocolate foam, Peruvian flan and other delights.

This is your opportunity to really expand your culinary boundaries, taste new flavours, sample new dishes and explore new cuisine horizons. Pisco sours will be available as a cocktail should you be interested, and Shangri-La’s resident sommelier will be on standby should you wish to elevate your dining experience with some quality wine pairing.

1 May 2024
Kad Kafe (Level 2)
THB 1,388 / person

2-4 May 2024
6 Course Set Dinner
Dhala Pool Garden (Level 1)
THB 1,688 / person

For more information and for reservations, please call (053) 253 888 or email: restaurants.slcm@shangri-la.com