Another absolute must-try from the world-renowned melting pot that is Peruvian food: lomo saltado. What is it? Marinated strips of sirloin steak stir-fried with sliced red onion, tomato, crispy French fries and the unmissable ají amarillo. Very flavorful, yet not spicy, lomo saltado never fails to impress diners in Peru and beyond. Fortunately, chefs that want to try their hand at preparing it are in luck because this meat dish is as simple as it is delicious: you can literally throw it together within minutes and you don’t need many exotic ingredients. Read on to find out more about the origins of this succulent superstar and make sure you try out the recipe!
Exotic origins of a Peruvian classic
Lomo saltado is almost like a metaphor for modern-day culture: key ingredients from different corners of the world that combine to create something new and characteristic. This blending helped the dish acquired a whole new identity of its own. So which parts of the world have come to the table?
A meat dish as simple to prepare as it is delicious
First of all: Peru itself, with the presence of the trusty ají amarillo chili pepper and potato. The potato merely takes a supporting role but thick French fries (made from Peruvian potatoes) are still considered an essential ingredient.
Next is Spain. It was the conquistadors who introduced cows and beef to Peru. It’s worth noting that at the start of the Spanish occupation of Peru, beef was expensive (there were very few cows in the country) and its consumption was most definitely restricted to the elite. Spaniards are also believed to have first introduced rice to Peru in the early years of the colony. But rice in Peru didn’t reach its current-day popularity until the 20th century.
Key ingredients from different corners of the world that combine to create something new and characteristic
The last country and pivotal player of the recipe: China. Thousands of Cantonese nationals immigrated to Peru in the mid-nineteenth century to work in agriculture. Soon enough the first Chinese takeaway restaurants sprang up in Lima, introducing the wok and the concept of stir-frying. These Chinese (and other Asian settlers to Peru) settlers also brought soy sauce, another key ingredient of the dish, and were responsible for popularising the use of rice in Peruvian cuisine. We can guess that at some point in the early twentieth century, a bold chef used his or her creativity to take the above ingredient and stir fry them in a wok. Voilà, a culinary superstar was born.
Variations of lomo saltado and a tip from Gastón himself
The fun thing about cooking is that there are endless variations of every dish, so we’ll give you just a few other ways of using lomo saltado to get your creative juices flowing.
The stir fry (with or without potatoes) goes well in a sandwich, can be used to stuff the peppers, is perfect served over risotto, and also used as a filling for empanadas (this last one is very popular in Peru). If you’re not keen on beef, you can replace it with strips of cooked chicken breast, cooked fish, or shrimp. If you’re on a vegetarian or vegan diet, you don’t have to miss out either. Replace the meat with Portobello mushrooms. Throw other vegetables like bell peppers, carrot sticks and peas in the mix for variety.
For a lighter, low-carb version, increase the number of vegetables, omit the rice entirely, and reduce the number of potatoes by half. As for the potatoes: the floury type is preferred, but most potatoes work well. A tasty tip is to leave the skin on for a crispier bite.
Peruvian top chef Gaston Acurio says his secret for the perfect lomo saltado is as follows: marinate half the fries with the beef strips whilst simply frying the others until crunchy so you achieve two types of textures. Acurio also suggests preparing lomo saltado without a wok by using a normal frying pan and stir-frying the ingredients in smaller batches, quickly, over very high heat.
Try it and let us know how it worked out!
- Wok or deep frying pan
- 18 ounces sirloin steak cut into strips or cubes
- 1 red onion cut into chunky slices
- 2 tomatoes cut into 8 slices
- 1 ají amarillo chili pepper sliced finely, veins and seeds removed
- 1 tsp fresh garlic paste
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 20 ounces white rice cooked
- 11 ounces thick potato slices, ready for frying
- 1/2 cup beef stock
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 4 tbsp plain vinegar
- Handful cilantro leaves
- 1/4 tsp oregano ground
- 1 tsp black pepper freshly crushed
- 1 tsp cumin ground
- salt to taste
- Fry the potato slices in the vegetable oil and set aside until needed.
- Cut the sirloin steak into strips or cubes. Marinate them in the cumin, salt, a tablespoon of vinegar, a tablespoon of olive oil and the soy sauce for 10 minutes before cooking.
- Bring a tablespoon of olive oil to a very high heat in the wok. Add the marinated steak strips and fry it until sealed.
- Add the onion, ají amarillo chilli pepper and the garlic paste to the wok. Fry for 1 minute whilst continuously moving the wok, and add the beef stock.
- Add the tomato and toss around the ingredients in the wok for 30 seconds, and finally add the ground oregano and French fries, tossing everything together for another 10 seconds in order to integrate all the ingredients.
- Serve immediately with white rice and decorate with a few cilantro leaves. Sit back and enjoy this timeless classic of Peruvian cuisine!