A Different Definition for Peruvians and Everyone Else in the World: Ceviche (For Peruvians: des versións blasfemos de nuestro plato nacional)

Ceviche (also spelled cebiche or seviche) has taken the 21st century by storm, sweeping the culinary war. Over the past few decades, ceviche has appeared on menus all over the United States. Not surprising at all, ceviche is a delicious preparation of raw fish that is soaked in citrus fruit. The chemical process that occurs when the acid of the citrus comes in contact with the fish is similar what happens when the fish is cooked, and the flesh becomes opaque and firm. Indeed, many people refer to the juice as “cooking” the fish, although that is just plain incorrect. However, even people who don’t like raw fish can often love ceviche The dish can be served as an appetizer or a main dish, when served with the right dishes. It is totally easy to prepare, thus providing a wonderful opportunity for even the most novice of cooks to impress their loved ones. The simplicity of the dish provides an easy blank canvas for improvisation. However, not all people are in favor of deviations from the classical preparation.

I met Andrea our freshman year of college and we became fast friends. However, since the beginning of our friendship, one topic remained untouchable: ceviche. Ok, so Andrea is Peruvian. She has some very strong feelings regarding ceviche, these beliefs stem from a deep seeded system of culinary entrenchment called, “tradition.” Being of no strong ethnic ties myself, I sort of don’t give a shit about tradition. I must sound like some sort of heathen, but its true. I have very few traditions, I have routines, habits, favorites, preferred methods, etc. Not traditions. Traditions are dogmatic and difficult to break. Preferred methods are just that… preferred. So when I first showed Andrea my preferred method for ceviche, she just about blew a gasket.

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“Meg, this is not ceviche. You’d understand is you would just go to Peru!”

For a die hard atheist, I presumed she would find my treatment a little more than blasphemous. Anytime I’d make my ceviche or post on facebook that I was making ceviche, she’d quip, “that’s not ceviche.” Whenever I would try to argue, she would get angry. I mean, actually angry. I didn’t understand at all. Andrea is the most cool headed person I know. It probably the only reason I’ve managed to stay so close with her through out all this time. Andrea is easy going, mellow, charming and generally open to new experiences. Whereas, I am bull headed, hot tempered, dogged in my pursuit of being right and usually stubborn as a mule (by the way, I fully recognize this post is just another way in which I am attempting to finalize my argument and prove myself right). Only in this one subject, do my soulmate and I find ourselves at complete disagreement.

And so began an age long battle for culinary ideology: tradition vs. novelty. I mean, seriously, who cares? Chef’s all over the world mess around with this method of preparing fish. In Peru, they mess around with the dish. Why can’t I? So I’m going to do something a little crazy. I’m going to give you a few different ceviche recipes I have come across while traveling around the world. And before you judge them to harshly. Remember this. Every great dish from every culture has now spread globally. With each move, with every border passed, these great dishes change. Who are we to stifle anyone’s creativity?

Peruvian Ceviche (For Peruvians: Ceviche)

According to some historic sources from Peru, ceviche would have originated among the Moche, a coastal civilization that began to flourish in the area of current-day northern Peru nearly 2000 years ago. The Moche apparently used the fermented juice from the local fruit similar to a banana passion fruit. Recent investigations further show, during the Incan Empire, fish were marinated with the use of chicha, an Andean beverage made from a blue corn. Different chronicles also report, along the Peruvian coast prior to the arrival of Europeans, fish was consumed with salt and ají. However, prior to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, citrus fruit did not exist in Latin America. Citrus originated in Yunnan province of China which slowly, through hundreds of year of trade, made its way to the orange groves of seville. Therefore, upon the discovery of the citrus fruit, natives simply switched to marinating fish in the highly acidic juices of the citrus plants brought by the Spanish colonists.

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Peruvian Chef in Lima cooking up some magical comida

Therefore, most historians agree ceviche originated during colonial time in the area of present-day Peru. They propose the predecessor to the dish was brought to Peru by Moorish women from Granada who accompanied the Spaniards, and this dish eventually evolved into what nowadays is considered ceviche.Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio further explains the dominant position that Lima held through four centuries as the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru allowed for popular dishes such as ceviche to be brought to other Spanish colonies in the region, and in time they became a part of local cuisine by incorporating regional flavors and styles.

1/2 lbs firm white fish, I would recommend Sea Bass

1/2 lbs shrimp, peeled and sliced

1 c fresh lime juice

1 tbsp fine salt

1 white onion, thinly sliced

2 ají chiles (or serranos), thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 cup of cilantro, stems removed

I personally like to use a gallon sized Ziploc bag when preparing any ceviche. Add the fish, onion and the salted lime juice to the bag. Seal the bag tightly. Place in a bowl in case the bag leaks (you don’t want a fishy lime juice mess all over your refrigerator). After about 30 minutes, flip the bag. After another 30 minutes, add the ají and the garlic. Allow to sit for another 40 minutes, flipping the bag halfway through. At the end, add the cilantro to the dish. Serve with hominy or potatoes. Bon appétit!

Mexican Ceviche (For Peruvians: Un Pico de Gallo de Pescado)

The invention of the dish is also attributed to places ranging from Central America to the Polynesian islands in the South Pacific. In Ecuador, it could have also had its origins with its coastal civilizations, as both Peru and Ecuador have shared cultural heritages (such as the Inca empire) and a large variety of fish and shellfish. Ceviche is not native to Mexico, despite the fact that the dish has been a part of traditional Mexican coastal cuisine for centuries. Before the creation of the Panama Canal and the transcontinental railroad, Lima, Peru served as a major stopping point on the way to San Francisco. My theory, and it is just a theory, is that this major route of shipping traffic provided the necessary means of diaspora for the dish.

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1 lbs firm fish, such as tuna or marlin, diced

1 c fresh lime juice

¼ c white vinegar

2 tbsp fine salt

2 tbsp

1 white onion, diced

2 serranos, seeded and diced

2 tomatoes, diced

1 poblano, seeded and diced

1 cucumber, peeled and diced

4 cloves garlic, crushed

Add the fish and the onion and the lime juice to a ziploc bag. Seal the bag tightly. Place in a bowl. After about 30 minutes, flip the bag. After another 30 minutes, add the serranos, poblano and the garlic. Allow to sit for another 40 minutes, flipping the bag halfway through. Make sure the fish is firm and opaque before serving. At the end, add the cilantro, cucumber and tomatoes to the dish. Serve with tostadas. Bon appétit!

Kinilaw or Filipino Ceviche (For Peruvians: ensalada de pescado crudo)

Kinilaw or kilawin or raw fish salad is an appetizer dish.  Most of the time, it is usually served with a beer such as “pulutan.” The fish is not cooked on fire but the acetic acid in vinegar and citric acid from lime or lemon slowly the fish meat when soaked for a few hours.  The traditional kinilaw is fish meat marinated in vinegar with ginger, onion, black pepper and chili peppers.

1 lb tuna; skinned, deboned, and cubed

1/2 lb cooked shrimp, sliced

3/4 c vinegar

3 tbsp ginger, minced

1 medium red onion, diced

1/2 c green bell peppers, diced

1 cucumber, peeled and diced

1 medium carrot, julienne

1 green mango, thinly sliced

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 c lime or calamansi juice

1 to 2 tbsp red chilies, chopped

Place the cubed tuna meat in a large bowl then pour-in half the amount of vinegar. Let stand for 2 minutes then gently squeeze the tuna by applying a little pressure. Gently wash the tuna meat with vinegar. Drain all the vinegar once done. Add the remaining amount of vinegar, and the rest of the ingredients then mix well. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Garnish with a slice of lemon or lime. Serve chilled.

Chifa Ceviche (For Peruivans: Ceviche Inspirado por la Comida Chifa)

1 lbs tuna

¾ c fresh lime juice

¼ c rice vinegar

½ c coconut milk

1 tsp fine salt

½ c carrot, grated

½ c daikon, grated

2 ají chiles (or serranos), thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, crushed

3 tbsp sesame oil

¼ c finely slice green onions, white part only

¼ c peanuts, finely chopped

1 cup of cilantro, stems removed

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Add the fish and the carrots to the salted vinegary coconut lime juice (also known as tiger milk) to the bag. Seal the bag tightly. Place in a bowl in case the bag leaks (you don’t want a fishy lime juice mess all over your refrigerator). After about 30 minutes, flip the bag. After another 30 minutes, add the ají and the garlic. Allow to sit for another 40 minutes, flipping the bag halfway through. Make sure the fish is opaque and firm. At the end, add the cilantro to the dish. Serve with corn nuts or potatoes. Bon appétit!

Japanese Ceviche (For Peruvians: Que?)

When I say ceviche is taking the world be storm, I really do mean it. I came across this recipe as a sushi restaurant in La Paz, Mexico.

1 c rice wine vineger

2 serrano chile, 1 minced and one julienned

½ tsp salt

½ tsp mirin

1 lbs fresh sea scallops, sliced crosswise creating thin round slices

2 tsp finely chopped green onions, white part only

1 tsp toasted black sesame seeds

1 c cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced thinly

2 tbsp soy sauce

Combine rice vinegar, minced chiles, sale, and mirin in a Ziploc bag. Add the sliced scallops. Place in a bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Add the green onion and sesame seeds. Gently stir to mix.

Arrange the cucumber slices on a single platter or individual settings. Spoon the scallops onto the top of the cucumbers. Garnish with the julienned chiles. Lightly drizzle hot sauce over the top of the dish. Bon appétit!

Meg’s Ceviche (For Peruvians: una versión ultra blasfemo de nuestro plato nacional)

When I was twelve, I purchased my first real cookbook. Prior to this momumentous occasion, I held cookbooks for little children. I remember favorite children’s cookbook contained simplistic recipes and cultural information from places all over the world. However, it was time I graduated to the real world. I bought the Le Cordon Bleu Student Edition, a five hundred page volume with every recipe from homemade salmon gravlax to boeuf bourginon to chocolate torte. This book laid the foundation for all of my remaining culinary knowledge. My parents hated the thing. Every time I got my royal blue covered textbook with twenty ingredient recipes, a slew of grocery shopping, heaps of dried crusty dirty dished and prep that seemed to take days stirred up the suburban household into a frenzy of culinary madness.

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“This is an act of evil!!!”

By the time I got to college, I had mastered (really I just made) roughly 90% of the recipes in what I would often call my bible. This ceviche recipe remained a constant favorite of mine through out my teen years. Corner of the page had fallen off from years of dog eared folds. The recipe was splotched from my mishaps. It was always one of the easier recipes in the book, with far fewer ingredients then other less splotched pages. My freshmen year, Andrea and I hankering for a kitchen decided to make ceviche together. I pulled out my blue covered bible with the binding breaking down and splotched pages and started making my recipe for ceviche. Her horror led to a near decade long argument.

 

1 lbs sea bass (or any kind of bass), cut into strips 2 in long and ½ in thick

1 c freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tsp salt

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced into thin slices no longer than 2 in

1 green bell pepper, seeded and julienned

1 red Fresno chile, diced

1 avocado, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, quartered and sliced thinly

1 bunch watercress, stems removed, lightly chopped.

½ c olive oil

In a Ziploc bag, combine the lime and salt. Add the fish, chile and onions to the bag. Seal completely. Place the bag in a bowl. Allow to sit for 20 minutes, then flip the bag and allow to sit for another 20 minutes. Add the bell pepper and garlic to the bag. Allow to sit for another 40 minutes flipping the bag halfway through. Pour the contents into the bowl. Add the cucumber and avocado and stir gently. Blend until smooth. With a slotted spoon, spoon the ceviche mixture into individual 8 ounce volume ramekin which will act at a mold. Allow to sit for another twenty minutes. Place the watercress and the olive oil in a blender. Place a clean white plate centered over the ramekin. Flip the plate and the ramekin so that the ramekin is centered upside down over the plate. Gently lift up the ramekin, leaving the ceviche. Spoon the watercress mixture onto the plate. Bon appétit!

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