Lomo Saltado

An iconic Peruvian dish, this beef stir fry recipe comes from Ricardo Zarate's cookbook: The Fire of Peru.

Lomo saltado is probably on every mom-and-pop Peruvian restaurant menu. The classic beef stir-fry is easy to make from inexpensive ingredients. When I’m having a rough day, lomo saltado is still the comfort food dish that does it for me. The best taste like a big, warm and cozy salad. You get a little crunchiness, but also something satisfying in your belly. Problem is, there are a lot of bad versions out there. It’s hard not to be disappointed when a saltado has steamed, instead of seared, ingredients. That’s a stew, not a stir-fry.

The key is to fry everything at very high heat so you get a good sear on the ingredients, but you don’t cook out all of their freshness. A few years back, I watched a lomo saltado cookoff on television when I was visiting family in Lima. The fastest competitor clocked in his saltado at just under ninety seconds. You don’t need to go that fast—I’ll be generous and give you an extra thirty seconds. But you should never spend more than two minutes from the time your beef hits the pan to when the scallion and cilantro garnishes are ready to scatter on top of the finished dish. The meat should be medium-rare, the tomatoes juicy, and the onions barely softening on the edges but still crunchy in the center. Make sure your tomatoes—heirlooms or juicy beefsteak—are really ripe, or let plum tomatoes sit out on the counter for several days until they soften up a little. These days, you see a lot of lomo saltados made with less expensive cuts of meat, but I prefer filet mignon (lomo means “filet,” the cut traditionally used in Peru); it’s so tender and flavorful, but you can use any cut from the tenderloin.

Traditionally, the stir-fry is served on top of deep-fried or skillet-fried potatoes, but you could also serve this with leftover rice. I usually pile potatoes on top or on the side of the plate so they stay crispy, like they just came out of the fryer basket or pan. And so you can dip them into the saltado sauce— Peruvian ketchup.” – Ricardo Zarate

Recipe courtesy of Lima-born Los Angeles based chef and restaurateur Chef Ricardo Zarate. Click here to purchase your own copy of Ricardo Zarate’s cookbook: The Fire of Peru: Recipes and Stories from My Peruvian Kitchen reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup baby fingerlings or roughly chopped potatoes,
  • 2 handfuls of homemade or good-quality frozen French fries, or about 1 1/2 cups rice
  • 8 to 10 ounces filet mignon or tenderloin, thinly sliced into 2-inch-long strips
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon pureed garlic
  • 1/2 medium red onion, halved from stem to root end
  • 1 ripe medium heirloom, beefsteak, or other juicy tomato, or 2 plum tomatoes
  • 2 scallions
  • 3 or 4 sprigs fresh cilantro
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Saltado Sauce (Peruvian Ketchup), or Ketchup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce, preferably a good-quality Japanese brand, or more to taste
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons canola or other vegetable oil

Serves 4

PREPARATION

  1. Prepare the potatoes or rice, or rewarm the leftovers. You can roast baby fingerlings, go all-out and confit them in olive oil, make homemade french fries, or even fry up good quality store-bought fries. The same goes for rice: Use leftovers, or make your favorite style of white or brown rice to serve with the saltado.
  2. Next, prep all of your other ingredients, so they’re ready; this dish cooks quickly. (Keep each in a separate pile.) Sprinkle the beef lightly with the salt and pepper and rub the pureed garlic all over the meat with your hands.
  3. Put the red onion half, cut side down, lengthwise on a work surface. Slice off both ends, then slice the onion into lengthwise strips about 1/2-inch-thick, moving the knife at a slight angle as you work around the onion globe. Your knife should be almost parallel to the cutting board along the sides of the onion and upright at the top.
  4. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and cut each half into several large, chunky wedges. Finely chop the scallions, including about halfway up the green stalk, or chop them roughly for more texture, if you’d like. Finely chop the cilantro leaves and top half of the stems. Have your saltado and soy sauces measured and ready.
  5. Heat a wok or large sauté pan over high heat until hot—a good 2 minutes. Pour in the oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan and heat the oil for 2 to 3 minutes, until very hot. The oil shouldn’t be smoking, but close to it. Swirl the oil around the pan, then toss in the beef and quickly sear both sides for a few seconds each until it begins to brown, about 30 seconds total.
  6. Add the onion and shake the pan or use tongs to flip them a few times, then add the tomatoes right away. Fry the saltado until the edges of the onions color in a few spots and the tomatoes barely begin to soften, about 30 seconds. The total cooking time shouldn’t be more than 90 seconds at this point.
  7. Immediately drizzle the saltado and soy sauces along the edges of the wok or pan, not on top of the stir-fry ingredients. You should smell the sauces caramelizing. Scatter the scallions and cilantro on top of the stir-fry and toss everything together one more time. Taste and add another drizzle of soy sauce, if you’d like. The saltado should be really juicy, with big flavors that the potatoes or rice can sop up.
  8. Spoon the lomo saltado straight out of the pan into serving bowls. Pile the potatoes on top or serve the rice alongside.
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