When it comes to food, I’m a fusion nut. I love pairings of unusual yet strangely harmonious flavors as much as I love marrying the tastes and techniques of different cultures. I credit much of this to my early obsession with sweet-salty pairings. (My favorite being cheese and honey sandwiches—a true delight that, to this day, nobody I know has ever tried.)
I spent my youth growing up in the Pacific Northwest, a region heavily influenced with Asian and Indian culture. Our food is unique unto its own, drawing inspiration from indigenous cultures such as the Haida people and the Coast Salish tribes. The cuisine of the Pacific Northwest also utilizes natural foraged foods such as seaweed and cedar. And yet, at its heart, the flavors of the region often contain distinct Asian undertones. All in all, it’s fair to say that the food of the Pacific Northwest is a true embodiment of fusion cuisine.
For centuries, cuisine from all over the world has been influenced by culture. Dishes have been concocted over time—through migration, trade, and colonialism. Even fish and chips can be seen as an early fusion concept, borrowing ingredients and techniques from Jewish, Belgian, and French culture. Some types of cuisine are so transformative that they become an entirely new, unique category of food—think of Tex-Mex or the fare of the Pacific Rim.
Created by Chinese laborers in the late 19th century, Chifa cuisine is a culinary tradition that fuses Cantonese foods with traditional Peruvian ingredients. Lomo Saltado is one of its more well-known contributions. With beef, soy sauce, tomatoes, onions, and South American spices, this rich dish boasts tons of flavor. To add an even more fascinating element, it’s traditionally served over French fries, making it a prime example of fusion cuisine. (I’m not sure of the history there, but I bet it comes with an interesting story.)
Lomo Saltado has a depth of flavor that belies how quick and approachable it is to prepare. Look for a cut of beef with a deep, meaty flavor that isn’t too tough. I like to use sirloin tips or “Denver steak.” That’s what we call the latter here in Colorado, but some folks refer to it as the underblade steak. Which makes sense, since it’s a section of the chuck that sits directly under the shoulder blade. Denver steak doesn’t get used as much, yet it provides all the flavor of chuck without the toughness of heavily worked muscle.
Traditionally, Lomo Saltado is made with tenderloin, but to me that just seems like a waste of money. In my opinion a cut with more marbling gives far more flavor. If you can’t find sirloin tips or Denver steak, try rib-eye, strip loin, or sirloin for a terrific blend of taste and texture.
Aji amarillo peppers are another traditional element of this dish. Yellow in color (“amarillo” means yellow in Spanish), with medium heat and a fruity flavor, it’s one of the most common peppers in Peruvian cuisine. If you can find it, awesome! (Better yet, grow some yourself.) If not, jalapeños make a fine substitute and are readily available. I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to spicy food, so I usually seed my hot peppers and cut back on the amount, but feel free to adjust to your personal preferences.
Serve your Lomo Saltado as a delicious snack or main course. Try it with the traditional French fries, or with rice for a fine substitute
Lomo Saltado (Peruvian Beef Stir-Fry)
Prep time: 10–15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
1½–2 lbs. steak of choice, trimmed of sinew and cut in 1½-inch cubes
1¾ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons plus ¼ cup soy sauce
Beef tallow or neutral high-heat fat
1 large onion, sliced
¼ cup red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced into rounds
2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- Place beef cubes in a large bowl and toss with cumin, salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons soy sauce. Marinate at room temperature for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat about 2 tablespoons beef tallow or other heat-stable fat in a heavy frying pan until almost smoking. Remove beef cubes from marinade and pat dry with paper towel. Place cubes in a single layer in hot pan (be careful to not overcrowd pan, or the meat will steam instead of sear). Cook, turning once with tongs, until deeply browned on both sides, about 2–3 minutes total. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining cubes, adding more oil if necessary.
- Once steak cubes have seared, add a touch more fat to pan. Next, add onion and cook until just starting to soften, about 2–3 minutes. Stir in vinegar and ¼ cup soy sauce. Bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits in the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Add garlic and jalapeños. Cook for 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and meat, plus any juices accumulated on the plate. Cook until heated through, about 1 minute.
Image from Briana Goodall.