When we first arrived in Peru we asked the cab driver who was taking us from the airport toward the center of Lima, “What we should eat while we are here?” His English was pretty non-existent, and our Spanish could use (a lot) of improvement. But despite that we were able to understand a lot of what he was saying. He rattled off a few, and then stopped and paused. He glanced back at us and said, lovingly “Lomo Saltado” and rolled his eyes. “Mi favorito” he said.
We met several other people during those first days. Every one of them suggested that we try the ceviche (raw fish or seafood cooked in lime juice – Lima is known to have the best, anywhere), the Pisco Sour (the country’s national drink), Aji Galina (chicken with a creamy spicy sauce often served with french fries) and most especially, the Lomo Saltado. We made it our mission to seek out each one. It wasn’t difficult. We started with the Lomo Saltado.
We found Lomo Saltado on almost every menu we read. When we finally ordered it, we felt a bit confused. It looked like a Chinese dish, and wait, are those french fries? It turns out that there is actually a large Chinese (specifically, Cantonese) population in Peru. After the abolition of slavery in Peru, Chinese immigrants (called Coolies) were hired to performed the hard manual labor in the sugar cane fields and mines. Today, there remains is a vibrant China Town in Lima and a Chinese restaurant (locally referred to as “Chifas”) in every neighborhood. The Loma Saltado dish is a fusion of both cultures, and it is both unique and delicious.
Loma refers to the tenderloin section of meat (beef in this recipe) that is stir fried over high heat with vegetables and mixed with the french fries. As with all dishes, there are as many versions as there are people who make the dish themselves. Here’s ours.
- 1 medium sweet white onion, cut into lengthwise strips
- 2 potatoes, such as russet
- 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into lengthwise strips
- 1/2 Aji pepper, or Serrano cut into strips
- 1 medium tomato, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 Teaspoon ground cumin, optional
- Splash of Perivian Pisco Liquour, optional
- Lime and Fresh cilantro as a garnish.
- Slice beef tenderloin into 1 inch cubes. Combine with the marinade and allow to sit covered in the refrigerator for 1 - 2 hours.
- Cut potatoes into french fry shaped slices. Coat with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven until lightly brown. Set aside
- Add 2 cups of water and 1 cup of white rice to a sauce pan. Add 1 tsp of salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Heat until it begins to boil and then turn the stove onto low. Cook until the liquid is gone and the rice is soft and fluffy. Set aside.
- Heat a nonstick saute pan (or Wok if you have one) to high heat, remove the beef from the liquid and saute for 2 - 3 minutes, lightly browning the outside. You don't want the beef to overcook and become tough. Remove from pan and put aside.
- Heat olive oil in the pan and add the onion and tomato when it has reached high temperature (add additional oil if necessary to prevent sticking). Cook for 2 minutes, then add minced garlic and minced ginger. Stir for 30 seconds.
- Add the red bell pepper and Aji pepper and saute 1 minute. Then add the soy sauce, vinegar and tomato paste. Toss and then return the beef to the pan and cook for one minute.
- Add a splash of Pisco (which you can flambe for extra drama) and then add the potatoes. Allow the flavors to combine for 1 - 2 minutes.
- Serve with white rice on the side and garnish with cilantro and a wedge of lime.
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