This Wednesday we’re dishing up Lomo Saltado, a beef stir fry with french fries. Unusual but awesome combination, no? Well, every dish has a story and this dish is no different.
Lomo Saltado translates from Spanish to “leapt loin,” referring to beef jumping in a hot pan or wok. Wok? In Peru? So begins the story of Chinese-Peruvian fusion - both in culture and cuisine.
Peru in the 19th century was a hotbed of activity. The Peruvians were among the first to mine gold in California during the Gold Rush, which meant major money. This shot Peru’s agricultural economy into the stratosphere. And thus a labor force was required. Chinese immigrants poured in to meet the need. Over time the cultures blended - including their foods. Enter saltados, or stir frys, of beef, chicken, noodles etc. The blending of Chinese and Peruvian food traditions is known as chifa, from the Cantonese words chi and fan, meaning “to eat rice,” really just “to eat a meal."
The Chinese imported a limited number of ingredients from their homeland; others they grew in Peru. But they didn’t have everything they needed to prepare their food authentically. And so they assimilated Peruvian ingredients like potatoes, explaining how Lomo Saltado came about. And good thing it did - it’s practically Peru’s national dish!
The first Chinese-Peruvian restaurants, called chifas, opened in 1920s Lima. Today there are 6,000 chifas just in Lima. But chifa food isn’t just in restaurants, it’s in the home. Soy sauce, ginger, and scallions have their place in every Peruvian home. In fact, Peruvians use the Cantonese words si-yau and kion for soy sauce and ginger.
Feeling educated? Good. Feeling hungry? Even better. Turn your home into a little neighborhood chifa for the night. Order now.