“Chifa” Beef with Baked French Fries


I had longed to visit Peru ever since I read Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa.  I became a devoted fan of the author and visited him in London when I was filming Judge Dredd in 1994.  I was trying to adapt Llosa’s humorous and erotic book In Praise of the Stepmother into film and enjoyed many wonderful afternoons chatting with the author in his Knightsbridge apartment. Llosa flew from London to attend the premiere of my directorial debut Xiu Xiu, The Sent-down Girl in Berlin in 1998.

In the spring of 2012, I booked a trip for the family to visit Peru during the girls’ spring break.  I bought non-refundable tickets on LAN Airlines, and pre-paid all the hotel rooms and some dinner packages. This was an unique experience for me as I rarely ever plan trips since they are always arranged for me by the production company or film festivals.

We had never taken LAN before the trip and was happily surprised by what we saw.  There was an old world glamour in the LAN Premium Business cabin, which was better than many United First Class cabins at that time.  The four of us were sitting on the plane waiting for take off when Peter decided to fill out  in advance the arrival cards for Peru.  Suddenly, he discovered that Angela’s passport was missing and presumed lost somewhere between the security check and the plane.  We frantically searched through all the carry-on bags and the overhead bins.  We retraced our steps from the plane to the airline lounge and to the security check point, but no one had seen or turned in her passport.  It simply disappeared and it meant that Angela could not enter Peru. 

Peter decided that he would deplane with Angela, and Audrey and I would go to Peru by ourselves.  A few years ago, I took Angela on a Mommy-Angela trip to Rome and Capri, and Audrey had been wanting to take a Mommy-Audrey trip for quite some time.  Now unwittingly this journey to Peru became her Mommy-Audrey trip. 

When Peter deplaned, he took most of the cash with him and left me with four people’s luggage. We lugged two large suitcases around to four different cities and towns in eight days, and everywhere we went we had either huge hotel suites or two rooms.  In many places we also feasted on food enough for four people.  The hotels felt sorry for us that we couldn’t refund the rooms or the dinners so they offered us lunch boxes and massages.

In Lima, we saw many Chinese restaurants that had the signs that said Chifa; I suppose it came from the sound of “chi fan” which means literally eat rice in Chinese.  Audrey and I tried one and we quite loved the interesting combination of Peruvian and Chinese flavors.

I thought of Peru today because of my failed trip to Boston.  My flight to Boston, which had been canceled yesterday and rebooked for today got canceled again due to the blizzard.  I will now miss my speaking engagement for which I spent a whole week preparing. 

I decided to roll with the punches and make the best of this unexpected free Sunday.  The memory of Peru made me crave for some Chifa food. This Chifa beef dish was so delicious that Audrey decided to have a free Sunday from her vegetarianism. 


Lomo Saltado (Peruvian Beef Stir Fry)


For the Baked Fries:

canola cooking spray

1 medium (5.3 oz) potato, russet or yukon gold, washed and dried

1 tsp olive oil

1/4 tsp garlic powder

kosher salt and black pepper, to taste


For the Beef:

1/2 lb lean sirloin, cut into small, thin strips

kosher salt, to taste

1/4 tsp cumin

black pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 medium red onion, sliced into thick strips

2 mini yellow bell peppers or 1 large

1 large jalapeno, ribbed and seeded, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 medium tomato, sliced into wedges

1 1/2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce (use tamari for gluten free)

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup chopped cilantro



Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Cut the potato lengthwise into 1/3-inch thick slices; cut each slice into 1/3-inch fries. Place on the baking sheet and toss with oil to evenly coat. Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Place on a single layer onto the greased baking sheet. Bake uncovered on the lower third of the oven for about 25 minutes or until tender crisp and golden.

Meanwhile, season meat with salt, pepper and cumin.

Heat a large wok over high heat. When hot add the oil and the steak, cook about 2 minutes, until browned on both sides. Add the onions, bell pepper, jalapeno and garlic and cook 2 minutes.

Add the tomato, soy sauce and vinegar and cook 1 more minute. Season with more salt as needed, remove from heat and finish with cilantro. Serve immediately with french fries and divide evenly between 2 plates.

If you double the recipe, you should stir fry it in two separate batches.  The French fries can easily be doubled in the same baking pan.


Recipe adapted from http://www.skinnytaste.com

P1020627  IMG_0303

4 thoughts on ““Chifa” Beef with Baked French Fries

  1. As the Lunar New Year is approaching, I would love to know more of your stories about celebrating the new year during the cultural revolution and how was it different from the era before. I was born in Vietnam after the end of the war and my parents are from south Vietnam. They shared sad stories about life post-1975 when things had changed from its glory days.

    I lived in Boston for nine years and never had this kind of winter. Now I moved back to the Midwest where snow storms and blizzards are expected but so far it’s been just a few inches of snow. I am glad that you have a free Sunday to make another beautiful dish and enjoy the nice weather of the Bay Area instead of being stuck in Boston.


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