Lomo Saltado for Peruvians is kind of like pizza in the US: an emblematic dish that no one truly knows its origins. In all reality, it probably evolved from the fusion of different cultures that met over the centuries and continues to this day.
Lomo saltado appears to originate from around the end of the 19th century when there was a large Asian influence in Peru (due to mining, road building, etc). The Chinese arrived in Peru in 1849 and settled mainly in Lima, though a handful traveled and settled in different provinces outside of Lima. If you ask certain villages in the Andes, some will talk vaguely about a dish from the area that was like an ancient version of lomo saltado. The recipe called for frying strips of beef in lard and then serving the meat with boiled potatoes and strips of aji (don’t know what aji is? Read this). It is believed that the current dish was influenced by Chinese cooking due to the manner in which the vegetables are fried and served along with the beef strips, potatoes and aji – wok-like.
The dish was originally served with sliced, boiled potatoes and rice; over time the boiled potatoes have been replaced with french fries. Peru’s most famous chef, Gaston Acurio, stated that the dish has origins from the Spanish, Inca and Asians (the Spanish brought the onions and the garlic; the Incas added the tomatoes and potatoes; the Asians brought the frying technique, or the wok, known in Peru as the “saltado”, or “jumping” frying technique). The recipe was first described in 1900 in a book written about Arequipa, in which the dish is described as beef or pork cut into strips and fried with white wine, onions, tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes.
Lomo saltado is so popular in Peru that the Lima city municipality organized the first lomo saltado competition in 2006, in which chefs were applauded for cooking the dish with chicha (corn beer), pisco, green onions, and other non-traditional elements. Part of the allure and popularity of the dish is due to it being such a simple, easy and versatile dish; you will see it offered in almost all restaurants in Lima.
During the economic crisis that Peru had during the late 1980s and 1990s, chicken replaced the beef due to its more economical nature. “Pollo Saltado” can still be served today, but is nowhere near as popular as the beef dish. The dish used to be called “lomo revuelto” or “lomo con todo” (mixed sirloin, or sirloin with everything). This dish has all the important ingredients of Peruvian cuisine: Garlic, onion, potatoes, rice, beef, tomatoes and parsley.
Adapted from Mi Causita.
And now, what you have all been salivating for! A recipe for lomo saltado:
- 1 (16 ounce) package frozen French fries
- vegetable oil as needed
- 1 pound beef tri tip, sliced 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 large onion, sliced into strips
- 3 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and sliced into strips
- 1 yellow chili pepper (preferably Peruvian aji amarillo)
- 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
- 1 dash soy sauce to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Prepare the bag of french fries according to package directions.
- While the french fries are cooking, heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Season the sliced meat with salt and pepper to taste. Fry the meat until just cooked, and the juices begin to release. Remove the meat from the frying pan, then cook the onions, with additional oil if needed, until they are transparent. Stir in the tomato and aji amarillo; cook until the tomato softens. Pour in the vinegar and soy sauce, add the french fries, cover, and cook until the beef is done, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with chopped parsley to serve.