The flavor and texture combinations are unbeatable. Lomo Saltado is a stir-fry of steak, onions, spicy yellow peppers, and tomato wedges with a soy sauce, garlic and vinegar based sauce all served over a bed of crispy steak fries. Heaven.
The flavors are obvious: savory meat and zippy vegetables served over a starchy, fried potato drizzled with a salty, garlicky, acidic sauce. Excellent contrasts. One key concept here that you don’t want to miss is the texture (or mouth feel) produced by the level to which each ingredient is cooked. The meat has to be tender, the vegetables (including the tomato!) are quickly, barely cooked with a distinct fresh edge remaining! And, well fries have always got to be crispy with a snap when broken and wide enough to have a substantial starchy center.
I see a lot of really weird recipes for Lomo Saltado on the internet. I’m not going to judge because if you asked 10 people in the US how to make spaghetti, you’d get 10 different recipes. Of course, if a grandmother in Italy saw the recipes, she’d protest over many I’m sure. And, if folks in the US saw how Peruvians made spaghetti, they’d protest too (I know I did). My point is, in Peru there are many ways to make Lomo and there are definitely things they wouldn’t do and I’ll point those things out along the way (in italic).
In case you didn’t know, Peru has a rich culinary history marring its wide array of indigenous foods and Inca and pre-Inca histories with foods brought over by Spanish conquerors, and later the culinary influences of Chinese, Italian, German, Japanese and African immigrants or slaves. Lomo Saltado, most definitely gets its roots from “la cocina china” (Chinese cuisine) as Peru has the largest influence from Chinese immigrants in all of South America.
Lomo Saltado Recipe
This recipe is fairly standard with one exception, the addition of either a small amount of aji panca (a pimento paste) or alternatively aji amarillo puree isn’t that common (and is downright weird). But I often yearn for a richer, more substantial sauce and this is my way of accomplishing that. Feel free to omit it.
- 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) of lesser cut, lean beef such as flank, skirt, chuck or round cut into finger sized strips; if using tenderloin look for the recipe Lomo Fino Saltado
- 4 large Roma Tomatoes cut in to wedges (1/6 or 1/8th’s); in Peru they remove the skin and seeds, I only do for special occasions!
- 2 Large Red Onions cut into wedges (1/12th’s); don’t cut strips or rings!
- Aji Amarillo, seeded, deveined, cut in to approx. 1/5th by 2 inch wide strips
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup red wine (burgundy is fine); many recipes don’t have this, some do
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped, Cilantro (without stems!)
- 4 cloves of minced garlic; Peruvians use garlic puree
- 1/2 cup oil (plus oil for frying the potatoes)
- 3 giant potatoes (1.5 kilos, 3.3 lbs.) cut into thick fries; Peruvians remove the skin I want the nutrition!
- 1/3 cup soy sauce; Peru has good soy sauce, use one with good flavor and not too much salt
- Black pepper to taste
- Optional: 1 Tablespoon Aji Panca or Aji Amarillo paste; Peruvians don’t add this
Cook some rice and set aside. Marinate the beef in the garlic, optional Aji Panca or Aji Amarillo paste and pepper. A few recipes marinate in a few tablespoons vinegar (I don’t like the results of that). The fries require frying twice. Fry the potatoes (in batches unless you have a deep fryer) until they just start to turn golden brown on the edges. After the fries are pulled out of the oil, they continue to cook internally. The final frying is very quick and is done after the everything else in finished (but don’t let the oil cool down too much).
Wok Method: Cooking with a wok requires a really large flame, if you can’t supply sufficient heat don’t bother with a wok. Mix the soy sauce, vinegar, half the cilantro and wine and set aside. Saute meat in the oil until brown, add peppers, then onions, then tomatoes cooking about 2 minutes each step. Add the liquid mixture and reduce for about 3 minutes then serve over fries (see instructions below).
Regular Stove Method: Add the liquid to a large cover pot and place on med-low heat. In a saute pan, brown the beef in stages (otherwise you end up boiling it), dumping each batch into the simmering liquid (don’t stir the large pot until you are ready to serve!). Saute the peppers and dump them on top of the meat in the pot, add half the cilantro (remove the lid and don’t stir the big pot). Saute the onions (in batches if necessary) and dump them on top of the meat in the pot (don’t stir the big pot). Saute the tomatoes and dump them on top of the meat in the pot (don’t stir). All along the meat, and the peppers are continuing to cook in the diminishing liquid, and everything else sitting on top is just staying warm. Once the liquid is reduced put the lid back on and turn to warm.
Bring the oil back up to temp (just below smoking) and fry the fries again in batches, until crisp and golden brown (about 2 minutes max).
Many Peruvians toss the fries in with Lomo Saltado at the end and serve. Some don’t (and neither do I). I wait until people are ready, put the fries on each plate, put rice on the side (use a cup to mold the rice it looks nice) and then spoon the Lomo Saltado over the fries and serve immediately. If 15 minutes goes by the fries are soggy. It really only tastes great for 15 minutes, so let that be the time it takes to eat your meal. Besides, if you have leftovers they aren’t going to be very good with the fries in there. Some put the fries on top as this keeps them crispy longer. I think it looks better and tastes better to have the juices running on top of the fries.
I like to use the leftover lomo the next day (adding sweet red pepper strips) to make fajitas (not Peruvian, but I miss Mexican food and this is my chance!) or I push the lomo to the sides of the pan, add a bit of water and poach eggs in the middle for Huevos Rancheros, served with whole wheat tortillas and avocado (ANP-Also Not Peruvian).
If you can’t get fresh Aji Amarillo Peppers
I’ve seen gringos recommend all kinds of other peppers. Here is the truth: Aji Amarillo has a very distinct flavor and there is no replacement. So any substitution of another pepper and you are not making Lomo Saltado any longer. It really will taste completely different (though hopefully good!).
In the right climate you can buy Aji Amarillo seeds on the internet and grow your own! OK that isn’t going to help with the meal you are planning now! In the US I have had luck finding frozen and jarred Aji Amarillo. Look in the international food isle and frozen food section, common brands are Inca Foods, Goya, Peru Food, Costa Peruana, Amazona’s and many more. I’ve tried all of these substitutions (in order of preference):
- >Frozen whole Aji Amarillo (use as if fresh)
- Jarred whole Aji Amarillo (use as if fresh)
- Jarred Aji Amarillo paste (add 1-2 tablespoons the liquid mixture) slice a small orange or yellow bell pepper and use that additionally
Enjoy, come visit Peru and let me know what you think!