Last month I was one of the participants at the Ocean County Library Bookfest in Toms River, N.J., which featured gourmands and foodies extolling the virtues of our diverse culinary culture. At the event I was fortunate to meet a lovely couple, Ruben Castillo and Pattie Hernandez. Ms. Hernandez, like myself, is of Puerto Rican heritage. Mr. Castillo is Peruvian. And, among other things, I inquired as to Peruvian cooking, of which I know absolutely nothing—until Ruben set me straight on the art of Peruvian cuisine.
The cooking of Peru is becoming more known and renowned in this country. One of the things that fascinates me about this cuisine is its Japanese influence. Yes, Japanese. During the 19th and early 20th century many Japanese came to Peru. Just like the Chinese who migrated to this country to work in the railroads, the same thing occurred in Peru. One of Peru’s former Presidents, Alberto Fujimori, was of Japanese descent. And as happened in America, they left an imprint on Peruvian cooking.
As in other cuisines, there are traditional Peruvian classics such as cuy (roasted guinea pig), tiraditos (sashimi style ceviches comprised of marinated fish and seafood), and anticuchos (marinated beef-heart skewers). Haute Peruvian fare even has a name: novoandina (roughly, new Andean cooking).
Up to this point, the only thing I was familiar with in terms Peru, was its national drink, pisco, which I enjoy. Let me add that Ruben, who is a pretty good cook in his own right (as noted in the recipe given below) is also a performer. He has an outlet, The King Am I Productions, where you can get further information as to upcoming performance dates and venues (email@example.com).
Here is his recipe: Lomo Saltado—one of the best known and tasty traditional Peruvian dishes.
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
2 1/4 pounds beef tenderloin, sliced into thin strips
3 red onions, peeled and cut into eight pieces
4 fresh yellow chili pepper (aji amarillo fresco), sliced into thin strips
4 medium tomatoes, cut into eights
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 1/4 pounds potatoes, cut like French fries
Cooked rice (about 6-8 cups)
1. Heat 1/2 cup oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add beef and quickly saute until beef is seared and browned on all sides.
2. Remove beef from pan and transfer to a plate. Cover and set aside.
3. Return pan to medium-high heat and add 1 1/2 tablespoons oil. Add onions and saute until edges are seared and they begin to soften (about 2 minutes).
4. Add aji marillo, tomatoes, parsley, salt, pepper, soy sauce and vinegar. Saute until tomatoes have softened (about 2 minutes).
5. Add beef and toss gently. Note: if you want to add a kick, and a special taste, you can pour 1/4 cup pisco over the meat and ignite. Once the flames die down, cover and set aside.
6. Heat 3/4 cup oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes and saute until browned and tender (about 15 minutes). Drain on paper towels.
7. Place cooked rice in the center of a serving dish. Place beef and French fries on each side, and sprinkle with parsley. Note: If you wan to fancify the dish, you can place the rice in a mold and unmold it onto the serving dish and then place the beef and French fries around it.
Yield: 8 servings