Today we feature Peru’s most popular dish, lomo saltado, a Peruvian Creole/Chinese fusion stir fry. A dish with a heavy Chinese influence, including cooking implements, spices and sauces. It also contains creole seasonings and ingredients and new world ingredients like beef and French fries.
Yes, you heard that correctly, when served in Peru this dish is served both with rice and fries. Our dish today has a few variations, including the use of quinoa instead of rice and we have baked fries as an option. Not only are there fries in this dish but in Peru they make sure that the rather tasty sauces are all over those fries!
It all sounds a bit bizarre but somehow it works and delivers a dish that leaves you wanting more. Honestly this is as good a stir fry as you will taste.
Last week, when writing about Peruvian Ceviche, I claimed that Peru was ahead of its time and true fusion food was well advanced in Peru before anyone in the West even thought of the term “fusion”. If you want further evidence of that claim, look no further than this dish, surely a dish with more culinary influences than any other. Read on and judge for yourself.
A Short History of Lomo Saltado
Lomo Saltado dates back more than 130 years. There was (and still is) a large Chinese population in Lima and being unable to cook their meals in the traditional Peruvian clay pots, the Peruvian Chinese designed their own cooking implement called the chifa, which suspiciously looks like a wok. Lima enjoyed some 6000 chifa eateries at the time. Think about that for a moment. That is a huge number of eateries in one city.
Lomo Saltado was born in the chifa eateries. It may have started life as beef and vegetables sautéed with soy sauce and served over rice but it slowly developed into something much different in the ensuing century. You can read more about chifas here.
Another very strong factor in the culinary development of Peru was the creole influence. Africans were brought to Lima more than 200 years ago by the Spanish conquistadors. The African-Spanish fusion mixed with Peruvian influences developed over the span of those centuries. And now Peruvian Creole is extremely strong, particularly on the Peruvian coast.
And as for lomo saltado in the ensuing 130 years? What might have started out as a heavily-influenced Chinese creation has morphed into a true fusion of Chinese and Peruvian Creole. Chinese cooking method and seasonings, Peruvian ingredients as well as Peruvian Creole seasonings and attitudes.
And the fries? Hmmm, what can I say? Potato being so common in Peru, they were always an ingredient in this dish, not cooked as fries, but stir-fried. I suspect that adding fries or chips is a more modern innovation with the maybe not so good spread of fast food to Peru from the West.
Nowadays once the fries are cooked in the oven or the fryer, they are added to the stir fry and tossed with the remaining ingredients to incorporate the sauce into the fries.
We had this dish a number of times in Peru and it was always served with chifa-tossed fries. It’s a great meal and we enjoyed it each time. If you wish to read more about about this dish then go here.
So if you like stir fries then cook this lomo saltado. It has real Peruvian flair that really surprises on the up-side. And the secret of this dish? I think it is the tomatoes. They form a great foundation and add a real depth of flavor, combining well with the other ingredients.