Food Culture, Traditional Food

Chef’s Sunday: Lomo Saltado is the Union of Worlds

Perfectly Cooked Beef with Vegetables and Sauce of Lomo Saltado

The smoky aroma you sense from cooking lomo saltado when following your waiter through the restaurant to your table generates a sensation of pleasure and desire for your nose.

This dish, like so many Peruvian dishes, begins its history in the mixing of immigrant gastronomic cultures in Peru. These include the creole, from the blend of Spanish and indigenous in our Peru, and Asian, specifically from China. When fused, these two cuisines have born much fruit.  Rich in flavor and scent, this union has led to intense and different flavors. They are something extraordinary in the world of gastronomy and form a key part of the personality of Peruvian gastronomy.

In 1849, the first Chinese immigrants arrived in our country.  They brought with them their sense of taste and seasoning, their ingredients, and their utensils.The most important was the wok.  With it, one could transform fried food into flaming stir fries, called in Spanish salteados that means tossed food.

Chinese-Style Cooking with Wok (http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Wok)
Chinese-Style Cooking with Wok (http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Wok)

After the arrival of the Chinese colony, the immigrants immediately began to work as cooks and obtained substantial fame because of their fantastic ability in the kitchen.  They say that they families that had a Chinese person as their cook were the richest of the epoch. It is said that once their contract was finished the Chinese cooks opened small businesses called fondas where they served vegetable stir fries and some fried rice or flamed rice.  That is where Chinese-Peruvian cuisine began, in the use of Peruvian products and Chinese technique.

Fresh Onions awaiting Cooking for a Lomo Saltado
Fresh Onions awaiting Cooking for a Lomo Saltado

Nevertheless, it was not so easy to create what we now call lomo saltado.  There were many impediments that today’s cooks do not confront, especially the lack of easy access to good meat.

The chronicler, Inca Garcilaso de la Vega tells that cattle arrived in Peru a little after the Spanish conquest, around the middle of 1538. However it was difficult to get access to that meat because of its elevated cost at the time.  As a result there were not many beef based dishes. Little by little the price went down and with the inventive genius of Peruvian and Chinese chefs new dishes were created.

Wok on Stove (http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/File:Wok_2.jpg)
Wok on Stove (http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/File:Wok_2.jpg)

At first there was only fried meat with vegetables.  What changed it into what we know today was nothing less than the wok. It gave it a different flavor because one could use very high temperatures and the hardness of the metal let the meat cook without burning to obtain the perfect degree of done-ness. The utensil made the classic flavor of meat fried with vegetables transform into a lightly sealed beef with the characteristic smoky flavor given to it by the wok. By facing high temperatures and the flame that invades the wok the meat takes on the fundamental scent of the lomo saltado.  Then Peruvian vegetables are added, soy sauce and black vinegar, along with Andean cilantro to obtain the explosion of flavor that forms this incredible dish which is part of the ten most representative dishes of Peruvian cuisine at the moment.

Fresh Tomatoes for a Lomo Saltado
Fresh Tomatoes for a Lomo Saltado

It is the representative to the world of Peruvian gastronomy.  Gastón Acurio claims it is the emblematic dish of our cuisine. Its roots are nourished in Inca, European, and Asian cuisines.

Thanks to the union of these cultures one obtains once unimaginable heights. The fruits of the union are here in Peru. Give yourself the adventure of discovering there wonderful flavors and carry home with you the memory of discovering the magic of Peruvian cuisine.

The Three Parts of a Lomo Saltado
The Three Parts of a Lomo Saltado

 

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2 Comments

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