Just caught an episode of Steven Raichlen’s Project Fire on PBS. The subject was Chino-Latino. I get the concept but, even having what I think is quite a bit of exposure to different cuisines, have never heard of this before.
Obviously some kind of Asian-Latino fusion, but is this really a thing?
I remember “Chino-cubano” growing up in NYC, i think mostly when I was in The Bronx. Although the name says Cuba, I also associate it with friends from Puerto Rico, and especiailly remember roast pork, yellow rice, and the word “cuchifritos”.
Chino-Cubano seems a fascinating relationship. Trindad stuff too.
In the years following the Cuban Revolution, New York City welcomed large numbers of Cuban-Chinese immigrants, and during the 1960s and ’70s, restaurants serving these new residents’ food abounded. This isn’t fusion cooking like Peruvian chifa; rather, it’s a mash-up of both Latin American and Chinese cuisines offered separately, side-by-side. Once a common sight on the Upper West Side and in Chelsea, these restaurants have slowly disappeared as the neighborhoods have changed; the people who built them embrace retirement and old age. This year, Washington Heights lost the beloved Jimmy Oro, and Chelsea’s seen the demise of La Nueva Rampa, La Chinita Linda, and Mi Chinita, to name a few. But remnants of this once-thriving type of restaurant still dot the landscape, and the Garment District recently welcomed a new entrant: Calle Dao, named for a famous street in Havana’s Chinatown, serves good Chino Latino fusion. Built on a foundation of no-frills cooking and barebones atmosphere, here are the remaining representatives of this proud, fading genre.
Yep, it’s a thing. There are still plenty of these restaurants in nyc, mostly inexpensive and casual. Asia de Cuba is the only high end version I can think of - and they had branches in several big cities at their peak.
There’s the mashup that happened here, and the mashups that happened in central and south america with immigration.
Japanese-Latino (Peru & Brazil) is another category - Nobu is the most famous example of this.
Just speaking from my travel experience and my friends, there was actually a decent amount of immigration to South America of people Chinese and to some extent Japanese descent (at least more than perhaps most would guess), so there Chinese-Latin fusion cuisine is almost a cuisine unto itself in some of the countries with these sizable populations. My friend who is half-Colombian and half-Chinese has always called herself and her family/friends from this community as Chino-Latinos (or Latina, in her case).
Definitely was pleasantly surprised at a lot of fusion Chinese and Japanese cuisines in Peru – whether it be the chaufa places already mentioned, or the nikkei Japanese restaurants. I have random Chino-Latino friends born and raised in Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil, and they’re always a fun group to go eat with. My half-Colombian friend’s mom cooks up a really great fried rice but also makes the best yucca fries I’ve ever had.
There’s also Japanese-Brazilian cuisine. Brazil has the world’s biggest Japanese community outside Japan. And did you know… more than half the migrants on the first boat to Brazil were Okinawans? I’ve read young Okinawans used to go to Brazil to learn about their culture as it’s better preserved there than in Japan. Their culture and languages were banned in Japan but they were free to be Okinawans in Brazil.
I’m curious about it but Brazil is not on my travel list for several reasons. But I do change my mind sometimes so who knows.
I used to live in Chelsea, and I can attest that at the time, you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a Chino-Latino place. Mi Chinita served something called “Chinese soup” which I think was wonton, egg drop and hot & sour all mixed together.
Since I started this discussion I should probably clarify to say it’s not that I haven’t been aware of Asian immigration into Latin countries (or that there are cross-cultural culinary influences) but that I haven’t come across what I recall as specifically“Chino-Latino” as a cuisine. I cook a lot, follow many food sites, read restaurant reviews, etc., etc., and don’t recall reading or hearing the term until that TV show. I guess I need to get out more.