Monday, February 15, 2016


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Peruvian cuisine is a delicious and exciting melange of indigenous Inca cuisine and ingredients, mixed with Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, West African, and even German influences.  I never tire of exploring it.  Of course, some of my interest is because my late father, Alejandro Jaime Urbina was Peruvian and I still have family there.  Today I'd like to share a version I just made of one of Peru's most famous dishes, which also happens to be quick and easy to make, and very delicious.

A family gathering in Lima, Peru in 1954: me (on left) and my sister in the very front with a young cousin in the center. My mother is in the center behind us (my Abuelita/grandmother to her left) and my father behind her. (Right-click on photo and choose "open link in new tab" [NOT "open image in a new tab"] to see a larger version.)
My book "World Vegan Feast" contains a recipe for vegan "Lomo" Saltado, sometimes called Peru's "National Dish".  It's a Chinese-style beef and vegetable stir-fry with some piquant Peruvian accents (chilies, vinegar, cumin and sometimes cilantro), but other versions are available now, including vegan ones.

Saltado dishes are commonly known in Peru to have a definite Chinese culinary  influence. (The culinary term saltado is unique to Peru, and doesn't exist in other Latin countries.) The term Chifa is used in Peru to refer to Chinese-Peruvian cooking, in which Peruvian and Chinese ingredients are fused to Cantonese culinary tradition. It also refers to a restaurant where this type of quick, hearty, cheap and nutritious food has been served to workers for over 200 years.  Now Lomo Saltado (and other versions) is considered a national dish in Peru and people make it home, too.

Chinese immigrants came to Peru mainly from the southern province of Guangdong and particularly its capital city Guangzhou in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They settled for the most part in the coast of Peru and the capital city of Lima. Chifa has become one of the most popular types of food in Peru and there are thousands of Chifa restaurants across all districts of Lima and throughout other Peruvian cities, with sometimes many Chifa restaurants operating in close together on a single city block.

Peruvian chefs now commonly use products used in traditional Chinese cooking such as ginger, soy sauce, scallions, and a variety of other ingredients.

NOTE: Saltado is generally served with both rice (which is a Spanish as well as Asian import), as well as French fries piled on top. Peruvians often serve rice and potatoes with meals at the same time.  I didn't serve this with French fries this time-- but it's really good either way.

Printable Recipe

Servings: 3

1/2 Tbsp dark sesame oil
2 cloves (large) garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp Peruvian aji amarilllo paste (or use chopped canned or pickled jalapeno peppers, or Sriracha sauce)
2 cups reconstituted Soy Curls (or other vegan "chicken" strips)
3 Tbs soy sauce (divided)
1/2 Tbs ground cumin
1/2 Tbs oil
1/2 medium onion, thinly-sliced
2 medium tomatoes, ripe, cut into wedges (preferably Roma tomatoes, but I've used other ripe tomatoes successfully)
12 ounces thin green beans, blanched and rinsed in cold water, drained
(Note: They can be frozen and thawed, but have to be thin "baby" ones-- you don't have to blanch frozen beans)
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
2 Tbs vegan "chicken-y" broth
a handful of chopped fresh cilantro (Note: If you don't like cilantro, use a combination of basil and mint.  Use 1 tsp each of dried, if you like.)

Have all of the ingredients prepared before you start cooking. Have steamed long grain rice prepared and kept hot. (NOTE: The rice is usually packed tight into flat-bottom cup that is wider at the top and up-ended on the plate, then surrounded by the stir-fry.)

If you are also serving French fries with the dish, prepare them right before doing the stir-fry and keep them warm in a low oven, spread out on a baking sheet.

Heat the sesame oil in a large heavy skillet or stir-fry pan over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, mix the Soy Curls with 1 1/2 Tbsp. of the soy sauce, garlic, chile paste and cumin.

Add the Soy Curls mixture to the hot oil and stir-fry for a few minutes.  Remove from the pan to a dish.

Heat the remaining oil in the same pan.  Add the onion and green beans to the oil and stir-fry briefly.  Add a little water (a tablespoon or two), cover and cook until the beans are crisp-tender-- it won't take long.

Add the remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce, the red wine vinegar and broth, and the optional cilantro, if using. Stir briefly and serve immediately with the rice and, if you're serving the French fries, top the Saltado with a small heap of them.

PS: This Saltado may seem dry compared to many other stir-fries, but, trust me, it's full of flavor!

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 217 calories, 84 calories from fat, 9.6g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 742.9mg sodium, 535.8mg potassium, 21.7g carbohydrates, 8.4g fiber, 6g sugar, 14.2g protein.


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