Gaston Acurio is one of the hottest chefs in the world that you've never heard of.
That's because the 41-year-old, black-clad whirlwind is neither French nor American. No, in fact he is Peruvian, as in South America, long seen by many Americans as a culinary backwater. But the cuisine of Peru is rich and diverse, and is held in high esteem by international gourmands, such as Nobu Matsuhisa, the Japanese-born chef who includes Peruvian influences into his Nobu Restaurant fare. If you've been exposed to the gastronomy of Peru at all, it's likely been in the form of empanadas, cabrito, or ceviche served at some of the newly-emergent places such as Inca's Café in Carrollton.
Acurio intends to change all that.
Indeed, his resume is impressive, boasting over a dozen high-end restaurants in 10 countries, plus a culinary school, a luxury hotel, and a cooking show on Peruvian TV. These businesses have brought in over $65 million, but according to writer Andrew Curry, Acurio intends to make Peruvian food as ubiquitous in the U.S. as sushi. As he quotes Acurio in a recent interview, "Thirty years ago, there were no Japanese restaurants in the U.S. Then one day, Americans started eating seaweed and raw fish. Now there's a sushi restaurant on every corner. Why can't we do the same with Peruvian cooking?"
Doubtless, one of the dishes the hyperkinetic chef would bring to the table is Lomo Saltado. Lomo is a Chifa dish, a fusion style of cuisine, which melds the best of native Peru creole cooking with influences brought by Chinese immigrants from Guangdong province in the late 1800s. Typically, it consists of sirloin strips marinated in soy sauce, vinegar, and Chinese and local spices, then stir-fried with tomatoes, red onions, parsley, and often yellow Peruvian potatoes. If chefs have omitted the potatoes, then chances are good the dish may be served with white rice or French fries.
Acurio's own recipe for Lomo utilizes bottom round or skirt steak for beef and he adds green bell pepper, white button mushrooms, beef broth, cilantro in place of parsley, scallions along with the red onions, olive oil, salt and pepper, and two yellow chiles. Writer Victoria Bekiempis adapted the recipe from Acurio's Youtube presentation, and notes that preparation time is 40 minutes start to finish. In other words, not only is Lomo Saltado made with ingredients similar to your basic beef fajitas, the prep time is almost identical.
Of course, if you're out and about and hungry, even 40 minutes prep time may seem like an eternity. Still, you can drop by Tacos El Viajero and enjoy a hearty meal of Lomo Saltado for about 10 bucks. The large menus all have pictures, so even if your Spanish is nonexistent, you can still point out what you want to the beaming waitress. Merely walk to the cooler for a soft drink, or ask for agua and you'll be set. And when Master Chef Gaston Acurio opens his drive-thru Peru-in-a-Box restaurants at a corner near you, you'll know just what to expect.