For a whopping .54 cents yesterday I purchased a book from the local thrift store entitled, “Turn Right At Machu Picchu.” As someone who adores adventure narratives and has been to Machu Picchu, I picked it up and devoured the journey through the eyes of Mark Adams, its author.
Not only did it bring back a longing to return to the country, it brought back a rush of appreciation for Peruvian cuisine, which I find gloriously underrated. Part of me wishes I could eat it all the time, but I also revel in the wonder and awe of a relatively undiscovered food culture.
On the coast of Lima, where the seafood is some of the best in the world, I sat down to my first proper ceviche and have never looked back.
As I recall, other highlights of that trip included eating cuy, or guinea pig and a strange, dense pasta in a shack in Aguas Calientes.
The guinea pig, for anyone wondering, had a jerkylike flavor that was pleasantly, warmly gamey.
But beyond local, traditional favorites, one of the best Peruvian cultural dishes is a surprise to me: chifa, Chinese/Peruvian fusion born out of a major migration of Chinese to Peru in in the mid 19th century.
In fact, so well integrated is the Chinese culture in Peruvian cuisine that nearly every menu features lomo saltado, a combination of meat and vegetables served with potato (Peruvian) over rice (Chinese). It is a marriage of cultures that is delicious, although not necessarily low-carb.
Although there are few places to get Chifa cuisine in the US, recipes can be found and replicated a number of ways. These meals are hearty and simple.
(I’ve included a lomo saltado recipe here, discovered on my travels abroad.)
Also, for the fun of it, here is a picture of me looking less than enthused against the backdrop of a full moon over Saqsaywaman, an ancient Incan ruin overlooking Cusco. (For the record, I regret how unexcited I look. That place was ridiculously, unequivocally cool.)
- 2 lbs potatoes, sliced French-fry style
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 minced garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 t aji (if you can get it — this is a very South American spice found in specialty stores or smuggled in my Abuelita’s suitcase)
- 1 pound beef tenderloin
- 2 red onions, sliced thin
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 2 red peppers, julienned
- 2 plum tomatoes, sliced into strips
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Peel and cut potatoes into 1/2 inch thick strips, about the size of thick French fries. Blanch by placing them in a bowl of ice water and set aside.
- Slice the beef into thin strips, bearing in mind the smaller they are the faster they will cook. In a saucepan over medium heat, sautee the cumin, garlic and aji until the garlic is fragrant.
- Sear meat over medium high heat until cooked through.
- Remove beef from heat and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Add the onions to the pan and cook 2 to 3 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent. Add vinegar and soy sauce, let cook. Add peppers, cook until softened. Keep warm while you handle the potatoes.
- In a separate pan with deep sides, heat 1 to 2 inches canola or vegetable oil. Pat potatoes dry and fry in hot oil. Use paper towel to drain. Season as desired.
- Add tomatoes to the beef/veggie/garlic pan. Let cook until heated through.
- Serve mix over rice, topped with fried potatoes.