Last night at dinner at my guesthouse, Adela made a traditional Peruvian dish, lomo saltado. This is a fusion of Chinese and Peruvian food. It starts out as a stir fry of marinated beef loin (lomo) stir-fried with onions and tomatoes. But there’s a Peruvian twist: I was watching Adela cook and I gasped in surprise as, at the last moment before serving, Adela mixed the french fried potatoes, that I thought would be served on the side, into the stir-fried meat! You almost cannot eat food in Peru without having potatoes (except at breakfast). Along side was a serving of rice. Again–two starches on one plate!
Today, I was back at El Perejil. The sign outside said that they had tamales, but when I ordered, it turned out that they were out. This is the second time I have gotten there too late to try the tamales. I guess I need to get there shortly after noon. If you know of my fascination with this ubiquitous Latin American food, you will understand my disappointment.
At any rate, on the menu today was–you guessed it–lomo saltado! I enjoyed Adela’s dish so much, I just could not resist ordering it! It was good but not quite as good as Adela’s.
Don’t let my use of the term “fusion” fool you into thinking this is anything new. The Chinese began immigrating here in the late 19th century to work in the mines and sugar plantations. As in the US, the workers were often exploited, but also as in the US, the Chinese were hired as cooks, and soon capitalized on the deliciousness of their cuisine by opening restaurants. Chinese-Peruvian food, known as Chifa, is very popular here. You find a Chifa restaurant in almost every block in central Arequipa–today I spotted two right next to each other. The cuisine has become so integrated with Peruvian food that, unlike in the US, chifa is considered Peruvian–in true melting-pot fashion.