Family Histories on the Plate: Chifa Childhood

By Sean Kenniff

By

Sean Kenniff
Chef Jesus Delgado's Broccoli pachikay
Chef Jesus Delgado's Broccoli pachikay

Close your eyes. Taste your childhood and think about how you might serve that to your guests—to connect them with the people, foods, and experiences that shaped you as a chef. What can you alter, and what is sacrosanct? Where does your inner grandma insist on saltines, and your training dare you to drop a briquette of binchotan into a vat of oil? In Chicago, these three chefs have mined their taste memories and melded them into soulful, satisfying dishes. There’s no real blueprint for expressing soul on the plate, it just takes a confident leap, bridging the gap between Grandma Lillian and James Beard.

Jesus Delgado grew up in a Chinese-Peruvian household in Lima, and every day after school the would-be chef helped at his grandpa’s small market. Each night, Delgado trailed his grandfather to different Chinese restaurants. “We always went to his friends’ restaurants. He wanted to cook dinner for his family and would go back to the kitchen and prepare a meal for us,” says Delgado. Seeing the men in his life cook and nurture inspired Delgado to pursue cooking professionally, and he has spent the last 13 years working with Gastón Acurio.
 
Flavors from those Lima kitchens flood back in modern format Acurio’s Tanta. For Delgado’s vegan broccoli pachikay, he builds a sauce with a lomo saltado backbone by smoking red peppers and onions in a screaming wok, and then blending and emulsifying them with soy sauce and vinegar. At pick-up, he wok-chars broccoli and garlic chips, nestles them in the red pepper sauce, and finishes the plate with pickled chiles and sauce pachikay.

That last element nods to his grandpa’s favorite Chifa dish, gallina pachikay—poached chicken with a Chinese chimichurri of confit garlic, ginger, ají amarillo, bell pepper, and sesame oil. The smoke, funky broccoli, sweet peppers, and hit of ginger evoke Lima in a Chicago kitchen that Delgado has made his own.

Get the recipe for Delgado's Broccoli pachikay here

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