If there’s a Peruvian cuisine classic it’s lomo saltado which is a type of stir fry. It translates directly as “jumping tenderloin” or “jumping filet” and it was born from the cultural mix between Peruvians and Chinese immigrants which resulted in a spectacular dish. And yes, like many Peruvian dishes, it has a double portion of carbs (rice and potatoes) that fight over which tastes the best with the juice from the beef ;).
We always have lomo saltado at my mom’s house in Peru and I can really smell it when I close my eyes. I can also smell the rice cooking with a touch of garlic. My mom used to grab a bit of that freshly-made rice and eat it with a bit of butter, but don’t tell her I told you, lol.
What beef cut to use for lomo saltado
Peruvian lomo saltado is prepared with filet/tenderloin. In Perú, this cut is called “lomo” or “lomo fino.”
It’s important to respect the cut of meat because it’s lean and extremely soft, perfect for this recipe. Just like you wouldn’t make an Italian Osso Buco with another cut, it’s ideal to make lomo saltado using tenderloin. On a day-to-day basis, I like to make pollo saltado. It follows the same procedure but with chicken breast. Thus, the cost of the dish is clearly less.
Ingredients for Peruvian Lomo Saltado
For a Peruvian lomo saltado, we need a few ingredients that will help us achieve that iconic taste:
- Filet/tenderloin: this is the lean cut of beef used for this recipe. Before cutting it, remove all the membranes and any large chunks of fat.
- Soy sauce: A nice quality soy sauce can notoriously change the result of your lomo saltado. A few brands don’t even have soy in them and are made of flavourings and food colouring. Make sure to read the label before buying.
- Vinegar: use vinegar in addition to the soy sauce to create that delicious lomo saltado sauce. When the vinegar gets reduced, it turns into sugar and helps to thicken the sauce as both ingredients evaporate. You can use white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar or even sherry vinegar if you’re feeling up for a delicious adventure.
- Oyster sauce: This thick sauce is optional but it’s added often for an extra layer of flavour and shine to the sauce.
- Peruvian Pisco: I love to add a bit of Pisco to my lomo saltado and flambé it. It adds even another layer of flavour and the result is amazing. This is optional of course.
- Red onion: We cut the red onion in large pieces so that you can actually feel them when you eat the lomo saltado. They should be nice and crunchy.
- Tomato: Personally, I like to use tomato sliced with the skin on and without the seeds. The skin helps so that the tomato doesn’t disintegrate into the sauce as it cooks over high heat. By removing the seeds we reduce the amount of water in it and prevent the recipe to turn into a soup.
- Ají amarillo / Peruvian yellow Chili: Ají amarillo is delicious and in this recipe we use it fresh, cutting it in half and removing the seeds and veins. Then, we slice it thinly. The spiciness is almost inexistent but it adds a lot of flavour. Some people also add a bit of ají amarillo paste to the sauce. If you live somewhere where you can’t find it fresh or in a paste form, you can skip it and no one will be mad.
- Green onion/Scallion or coriander: You know I’m anti-coriander, so I instead add green onion to finish the dish. You’re free to switch it though or even use both.
How to make lomo saltado
To make Peruvian lomo saltado, first, sear the cuts of beef in a pan (usually a wok) with vegetable oil over extremely high heat. This is what adds a deep taste to the sauce later. Once golden, we add the mix of soy sauce and vinegar. If you’re using Pisco or oyster sauce, it add it now as well. Repeat the same process with the vegetables. The sauce is left to thicken for a bit in the pan before removing it.
Tips for making Peruvian lomo saltado at home
To make a lomo saltado, there are a few tips that are very important and yield a perfect result.
- How the meat is cut. Many years ago, thinly slicing the tenderloin for lomo saltado was common. Nowadays, it’s preferred to cut it in 4-5cm/1.5in cubes so that it doesn’t dry out and the interior is cooked to a medium stage even as it cooks in the sauce.
- Heat. This factor is extremely important. It doesn’t matter if you have a gas stove or if it’s electric or induction, you have to be patient and let it preheat until the pan smokes. The less powerful your stove, the fewer pieces of meat you can cook per batch. You will also need more patience as it reheats again for the next batch. The searing of the meat is the key to nailing the flavour of this dish. The type of pan that you use isn’t that important. The classic option would be to use a wok, but any pan should also do the job.
- The vegetables need a quick sear. If they spend too much time in the pan, they will get soft and we don’t want that. We still want to feel a crunchy texture when we bite into them.
- Now, a piece of warning. If you’re going to flambé your lomo saltado, ALWAYS turn off your kitchen extractor. If it’s on, the flame will be higher and any fat left in there could be set on fire.
Cooking without gas
A classic Peruvian lomo saltado has a subtle smoky flavour that comes from setting the oil in which the meat is cooking on a gas stove. The most classic option for cooking lomo saltado is using a wok over a gas stove. To achieve this, you tilt the wok towards the flame and it should set on fire. I use a camping gas stove and it works nicely. However, if you don’t have a gas stove or are afraid to set the oil on fire or you just want to skip it, here are a few options:
- If you have a gas stove: Once the meat is golden, carefully tilt the pan to get the flame close to the oil in it. It should light on fire. If it doesn’t it could be that your pan isn’t hot enough or you don’t have enough oil in it. Once the fire wears off, you add the ingredients for the sauce.
- If you don’t have a gas stove and want to add the smoky flavour, a good idea is to flambé using Pisco. If you have a blow torch, you can flambé it pretty easily. If you don’t, you can light a piece of rolled-up kitchen paper and get it close to the pan. With the vapour from the Pisco, it will light up immediately.
- If you want to avoid all this fire, that’s ok. Just add the ingredients from the sauce and let them boil to reduce without setting it on fire. It won’t have that smoky flavour but it will still be delicious.
Serve Peruvian lomo saltado the typical way with fries and rice. There are people who prefer to mix the fries into the lomo saltado and let them soak those juices. Other people like me rather have them on the side and control which of them absorb the juices. You can prepare Peruvian style rice, on the other side, with a bit of garlic and it’s really the best version for me.
Peruvian Lomo Saltado Recipe
For the rice
- vegetable oil
- 2 cups long grain rice
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 1/2 cups cold water
- 3 tsp salt
For the fries
- 900 g potatoes
- 500 ml vegetable oil
For the lomo saltado
- vegetable oil to cook
- 1 kg tenderloin/filet of beef clean, without membranes and large chunks of fat. Cut in medium-sized cubes.
- Salt and pepper
- 80 ml white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar or sherry vinegar
- 150 ml soy sauce
- 5 tbsp oyster sauce optional
- 80 ml Peruvian pisco optional
- 2 tomatoes deseeded and cut in strips
- 1 red onion in slices
- green onions/scallions only the green part, cut in thick pieces
For the rice
- Grate, mince or purée the garlic and cook with a bit of vegetable oil on medium-low heat.
- Add the rice and stir to heat it up for a couple minutes.
- Add the water and wait for it to start boiling.
- Cover with a lid and let cook for 15-20min on minimum heat or until it dries out. Fluff up with a fork once done and reserve.
For the double fried fries*
- Peel and cut the potatoes in similar sizes for even cooking.
- Let soak for at least 30min in water with 3 tbsp of salt so they release water.
- Remove from the water and tap-dry with kitchen paper.
- Heat up the oil to medium-low heat and cook half of the potatoes. You should only see a few bubbles coming up. Take them out once cooked (try with a knife or toothpick) and put them on kitchen paper to continue with the rest of the potatoes.
- Once the potatoes are out of the oil increase the heat to medium-high and wait for it to heat up. Fry the fries in to batches once again, this time you should see quite a lot of bubbles. Remove from the oil and place on kitchen paper so it absorbs the excess fat.
- Season with salt and leave them in a preheated oven at 100°C/200℉ while you make the lomo saltado. Remember they don't stay crispy long if you just keep them lying around in the kitchen.
For the lomo saltado
- Heat your pan on really high heat, be patient and let it heat up nicely. Ideally, you want to use a wok. If you don't have one, use any pan you like.
- Add approximately 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and place the pieces of meat on top. Only add enough to fill half the pan so that they can sear properly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Don't move the meat for a minute and then flip it. If you move them around too much they won't become golden. It's important that the pieces aren't small so that they don't overcook. At this point we're only searing, they will continue to cook with the sauce.
- Warning, if you're flambéing or setting ingredients on fire in the kitchen, ALWAYS turn off your extractor. Once the meat is seared, you have three options:1. If you have a gas stove: Once the meat is golden, carefully tilt the pan to get the flame close to the oil in it. It should light on fire. If it doesn't it could be that your pan isn't hot enough or you don't have enough oil in the pan. When the oil isn't on fire anymore, add approximately 1.5 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp vinegar and an optional 1 tsp oyster sauce. If you want, you can also add a bit of Pisco and flambé it, it adds delicious flavour.2. If you don't have a gas stove and want to add the smoky flavour, a good idea is to flambé using Pisco. Add approximately 1.5 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp vinegar, an optional 1 tsp oyster sauce and 1 tbsp Pisco. To flambé it you can use a blow torch or set on fire the tip of a rolled-up piece of kitchen paper. Get the flame close to the pan and it will flambée immediately just from the vapour of the Pisco.3. If you want to avoid all this fire, that's ok. Add approximately 1.5 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp vinegar, an optional 1 tsp oyster sauce and an optional 1 tbsp Pisco. You will just let it reduce without setting it on fire.
- Give it a few extra seconds for the sauce to reduce and thicken slightly.
- Remove the meat from the pan along with the juices and continue with the rest of the meat. The weaker your stove is, the less meat you can cook per batch.
- Repeat the same procedure with the tomato, onion and ají amarillo. Do this quickly because we don't want them to wilt too much.
- Put everything back in the pan and heat it up for a minute. Don't do it longer than that or the meat could overcook.
- Finish by adding the green onion/scallion.