This week is sacred in Peru. Easter week. And by sacred we don’t necessarily mean religious, because non-believers worship the 4-day weekend they get from these celebrations too. People of faith, however, not only go to mass and watch religious movies on TV (the same ones they used to show when I was a kid…I wonder why they don’t make new ones?). Another important aspect of this Catholic date is the almost all-fish diet, banning beef and pork from daily dishes. Fish is eaten everywhere during these last few hot days of summer, and in the markets its price rises to the clouds.
But for those who don’t like fish so much, but can’t do without an animal protein in every meal (most Peruvians can’t), chicken is also believed to be a kind of sinless meat, and can be eaten without guilt. Maybe because it´s a bird? I really don´t know. I assume the answer is in the Bible!
Taking advantage of this I decided to share with you another version of our beloved lomo saltado, but this time with chicken (because we can never get enough of this Chinese-inspired dish). Like in most of our recent posts, I shot the photos at my brother´s restaurant, (Roberto Cuadra), as I spent a few days in En Salvador with him and decided to take advantage of his wonderful kitchen and of their daily preparation of these Peruvian favorites (less hassle and spending on ingredients for me too).
This is usually quite easy to make at home -in Peru people cook versions of this entree all the time-, but the only problem is that unless you have a powerful exhaust fan in your kitchen, this may end up being a very “loud” dish. In Peru we don´t have fire alarms in most houses, and usually the kitchens have good sized windows that remain open most of the time, so the smoke is not a problem.
If you are a very religious person (although I don’t know if there are many of those left out there), and will be more comfortable eating fish or seafood during this week, feel free to indulge in our saltado de camarones con gnocchi de papa amarilla, (stir fried shrimp with yellow potato gnocchi).
Here are the steps for a successful pollo saltado:
1.- Have the sliced chicken breast ready, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and some chopped garlic, if you want.
2.- Put the pan over the highest heat. It should start to smoke. At this point add the oil.
3.- Ideally, when you add the chicken, the pan should get on fire and give the meat a delicious smokey flavor. But BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL with this, and only do it if you’re an expert in the kitchen. Otherwise, just make sure it’s hot but not to the point of flames when you add the chicken (don’t let the pan and oil smoke like in the pictures if you want to avoid this).
4.- Add garlic and onions as the pan continues to smoke while the chicken gets golden.
5.- Add vinegar and soy sauce to the pan.
6.- Add tomatoes and cilantro, chili pepper, salt and pepper.
7.- Serve the saltado with all its juices, white rice and French fries. This may sound like too much food, but you will understand the importance of these side dishes when you eat them together and see how they absorb the juices of the chicken stir-fry and make the perfect ensemble.
Note: This photos were taken in a restaurant kitchen. Be very careful when you attempt to do this at home, and if you’re not sure about the method, just make a regular stir-fry (without the flames!)
- 1 lb. chicken breast, skinned, bonned, and cut in thin slices
- 2 garlic cloves finely diced
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 red onion cut in thick slices
- 2 tomatoes cut in thick slices
- 1 seeded and ribbed aji amarillo chili pepper cut in thin slices (you can substitute with 1 tablespoon of aji amarillo paste, or with any chili pepper you can find)
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 2 cups French fries
- White rice as a side dish
- Season the chicken stripes with salt and pepper.
- Put a wok or a pan over very high heat. When it is smoking, add the oil, let smoke again, add and saute the chicken, a few slices at a time so they don't steam but remain golden instead (about 10 minutes, depending on how strong the flame is).
- In a home stove it´s almost impossible to get that kind of heat, besides, the fire alarm will alert the Firefighters and all the experience will be a mess.
- Add garlic, onion, tomato, chili pepper, and stir for a couple of minutes. Add the soy sauce and vinegar on the sides of the pan and mix everything. Season with more salt and pepper.
- Take off the heat, add chopped cilantro and serve at once with French fries and white rice.