When sisters Angela Kisijara and Martha White founded Inka Mama’s in 2001, they were simply looking to provide a bit of their family’s Peruvian cuisine and culture to the community. More than 20 years later, Inka Mama’s has become an Orange County restaurant chain that’s about to add a fifth location to its growing empire.
Co-owner and manager Francesca Begazo told What Now Orange County that the secret to Inka Mama’s success is remaining a family-run business.
“Even though we’re growing, gradually, the Inka Mama’s flavor and soul will always be there because our family members are always there,” she said. “All of the food recipes come from my mother Angela and my Aunt Martha. Because this food is very dear to our hearts, we always have eyes on how it looks coming of the kitchen.”
“Every time we open a new Inka Mama’s, we go back to Peru to touch base with our roots and bring back decorations,” she adds. “Then we come back to the new location and decorate it like it’s our home. So, you feel that hominess when you walk into the new restaurant.”
The upcoming Inka Mama’s location in Tustin continues the restaurant’s celebration of bold Peruvian flavors. While it may be known the world over as the cradle of Inca civilization, Peru has been gaining more attention for its national cuisine, which makes heavy use of citrus, spicy chilies and fresh ingredients.
Peruvian food is also celebrated as a kind of culinary melting pot that has been heavily influenced by waves of Chinese and Japanese immigrants who came to the country in the late 19th century and early 20th centuries. At Inka Mama’s, the menu is full of these cross-Pacific influences. Saltados are a Chinese-style stir-fry that includes a uniquely Western ingredient: french fries. Ceviche was traditionally prepared with cooked fish until Japanese immigrants brought their love of raw fish to the South American country, according to Food & Wine.
Of course, if you’re going to the new Inka Mama’s restaurant in Tustin, you’re probably not going for a history lesson. And there’s no need for one. The menu is packed with savory South American goodness made with traditional Amazonian and Andean ingredients. Popular items include empanadas, fried calamari and arroz con mariscos — a Peruvian take on paella. The menu dedicates an entire section to vegetarian fare and a kids’ menu features some classic crowd-pleasers: chicken fingers and spaghetti with marinara sauce.
In addition to well-seasoned savory foods, there will also be a full bar featuring pisco, a popular South American spirit that Peru has laid claim to inventing. Those who prefer less potent potable can opt for beer, wine or soft drinks. The new location will also have a large patio and a brunch menu on weekends.
If you’re in Tustin and can’t make the trip to Peru, don’t worry: Inka Mama’s is opening soon and about to take you on a culinary journey to this distinct South American country. An opening announcement has not been made but follow the Inka Mama’s Tustin Instagram for updates.