Off the Beaten Path: Chifa La Union, Peruvian-Chinese Food in Corona

As far as MSG goes, I'm with Jeffrey Steingarten. There's no such thing as “Chinese restaurant syndrome.” I'll be sure to report back if I experience chifa syndrome though..

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Before anyone gets the wrong idea about this place, I should point out that the little guy in the toque is not one of the chefs. Nor is baby meat on the menu at Chifa La Union.

As with any Peruvian eatery, there is plenty of seafood, including the tower of fried items known as jalea and ceviche. As much as I love those dishes, that’s not what drew me to La Union yesterday afternoon. It was chifa, or Chinese food as served in Lima's barrio chino. With lots of fried rice, wontons, pineapples, and gloopy sauces, this grub is a decided change of pace from all the regional Chinese fare I've been scarfing down lately.

Chifa is more like Wo Hop for Peruvians.

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This bowl of sopa wantan especial was just the thing for a wintry afternoon. Somehow the waitress managed to bring it to the table without spilling any. The bowl was brimming with greens, shrimp, tender bits of roast pork and chicken, as well as the aforementioned wantan. That bone sticking out of the broth was part of a roast duck and made for pleasant gnawing. Sure the soup was a bit salty, but last time I checked, so is the one at Wo Hop.

My beverage of choice? Not a cup of Chinese tea, but a mug of the refreshing Peruvian purple corn drink, chicha morada.

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Chi jau kay, a Machu Picchu-sized mound of tender fried white meat chicken, rises out of a dark brown lake that packs quite an umami punch thanks to oyster sauce among other things. When I got home I learned that those other things include, aji no moto, or “essence of taste,” better known as MSG. That would explain the umami explosion.

As far as MSG goes, I'm with Jeffrey Steingarten. There's no such thing as “Chinese restaurant syndrome.” I'll be sure to report back if I experience chifa syndrome though.

Chifa La Union

91-18 Corona Avenue, Corona NY 11368 (map) 718-592-2786