We wrapped up an amazing week in Cusco and Machu Picchu, then headed into Lima to spend a few days exploring, recovering, and reconnecting with our city roots. The food in Lima was really excellent – diverse, high quality, mostly inexpensive – and one dish we couldn’t get enough of was lomo saltado, a super savory steak stir fry, rested gently atop a serving of french fries, and served alongside white rice. This sh** is not low carb. This actually reminded us of a dish that Liz’s grandma (who’s Vietnamese) makes. We lovingly refer to it as “Grandma’s steak and fries,” so perhaps there was some nostalgia element at play.
Not knowing anyone in Lima, I put out some feelers online and connected with Cyntia. She’s actually Argentinian, but has lived in Peru for 11 years, and does most of the cooking at home, which was good enough for me. Liz and I took a cab to her house and were greeted by her and her friend, Andrea. And wine.
This ended up being a terrific night, and highlight of the trip. Cyntia and Andrea were so so welcoming, and it gave us chance to experience a new part of the city, practice our Spanish, and share our love of cooking.
OK, now to the food. As in most places, Peruvian food is light on measurement, so especially the seasoning was by taste. It doesn’t make writing a recipe easy, but the good news is that, for a dish like this, it’s easy to make minor adjustments in order to hit the flavor profile you prefer.
- (1) lb beef, sliced into thin strips (can be ribeye, tri-tip, sirloin…basically whatever is available)
- (2) purple onions, halved then sliced from pole-to-pole
- (2) Peruvian yellow peppers (aji amarillo), cut into thin strips (approx. same size as onion)*
- (4) roma tomatoes, peeled (optional) a cut lenth-wise into 1/8s
- (2) garlic cloves, minced
- soy sauce
- white vinegar
- Peruvian pisco (optional)
- salt & pepper to taste (careful not to add too much too early, since soy sauce will add salt too)
- (3) potatoes, cut into french-fry-sized strips
- veggie, sunflower, or peanut oil (anything OK for frying)
- season with salt & pepper
- white rice
- Slice the potatoes into the french fry size of your choosing and cover in cold water to remove some of the starch. You can let these sit in water for as long as you want, but if you don’t have too much time, don’t sweat it. Just rinse for 15 minute so they don’t turn brown.
- Pour off liquid, transfer potatoes to paper towel to dry off as much as possible.
- Add about two inches of oil to a deep-sided pan.
- Fry potato until golden brown, gently stirring occasionally.
- Carefully, remove fries from oil using a spider, slotted spoon or tongs. Place on fresh paper towel or newspaper.
- Lightly season with salt.
- To peel tomatoes, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Cut an X shape on the bottom of each tomato (just through the skin) and drop into the water for 15-20 seconds. Remove, let cool and skin should easily come off.
- Add about a tbsp. of oil to a pan. Lightly season the steak with salt and pepper and fry until it starts to release juices. Pull from frying pan and set aside.
- Add a bit more oil if needed, then stir fry onions until translucent.
- Add aji Amarillo and tomato. Cook until tomatoes begin to break down.
- Add steak and juices into pan with onions, aji amarillo, and tomato
- Add 2-3 tbsp. of vinegar and a healthy dash of soy sauce, to start. Taste and adjust as needed.
- Optional: Add a bit of Peruvian pisco, then carefully, with a match or lighter, light the alcohol on fire and cook until the flame dies down.
- Add fries back into the pan and toss lightly.
- Garnish with parsley and serve alongside rice.
*Aji amarillo can be difficult to find outside of Peru, and unfortunately there isn’t an easy substitution. Since these are just included in the stir fry, one option would be to leave them out completely. You could also substitute fresh serrano pepper, which have a (mostly) similar heat level, but are much brighter in flavor than the more earthy aji amarillo. Habanero is more similar in flavor, but are way way hotter, so it may just depend on your personal preference. My last suggestion would be to just sub in a green bell pepper. No heat, but does add that grassy flavor, and more importantly a bit of dimension to the final dish.