I was recently in Miami Beach and walked past a Peruvian restaurant. It was one of those expensive places that had a leather-bound menu out front. What caught my eye was there was a whole section devoted to ceviche. Ceviche is a Peruvian seafood dish that instead of being cooked is marinated in citrus juice. The acid in the juice causes the seafood to be denatured, which is the same process that cooking does. Another thing that I saw was it was among the most expensive items on the menu. Ceviche is something I do fix for myself, seems like it is time to add it to Cooking To Impress.
While traditionally, ceviche is a simple dish, it is often found in elegant restaurants as an appetizer. Raw fresh fish, tomatoes, onion, a little seasoning, and fresh citrus juice are all you need to make ceviche. Some basic knife skills are all you need to make this Cooking to Impress dish.
Ceviche is the national dish of Peru, reportedly dating back over 2,000 years. Some historians believe that is wrong and it was introduced by Moors in the Spanish colonial years. There is also a belief that it was introduced by Filipino sailors during the galleon trade. The Filipino version. Kinilaw, dates back before the Spanish colonial era and uses vinegar as well as citrus juices. Regardless, versions of ceviche are found in Central and South America as well as the Caribbean and Pacific Islands. Each country has a slightly different version, playing with local ingredients. You will find it spelled in a number of ways, cebiche, ceviche, seviche, or sebiche,
Warnings Is It Raw Fish?
I will admit, I was scared off from making this for years. You will see many warnings about eating raw seafood. Most recipes for this dish start off by warning you that you must know how fresh your fish is. That while the denaturing process converts the fish’s protein in the same manner as cooking, it does not kill off potential bacteria that cooking with heat does.
My enlightenment came when I was reading an article about frozen fish. Doing a little research, I found articles recommending using thawed frozen fish for ceviche. While using the frozen fish will not completely eliminate the risk of bacteria, it does significantly lower it.
A few hours later, I was thawing a frozen tilapia fillet under running water. Within the hour, I was spooning a little of the ceviche over a cracker and enjoying a fine elegant appetizer.
Ceviche Appetizer or Entrée?
Ceviche is generally considered an appetizer. Traditionally, it was the main course with some sides. Myself, I generally eat it as a main dish, often with a tomato and cucumber salad with it. It is great on a tortilla or tostada. It does make a great snack as well.
I actually started eating a type of ceviche long before I knew what it was. On trips to the Bahamas, I would eat a local dish that is regularly considered the national dish of the islands, conch salad. The meat of a Queen conch is marinated in lemon juice with some tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. If you never tried it, you must, it is incredible.
Making Your Own Ceviche
White Fish are considered the best to use in ceviche. My favorites are Tilapia and Ocean Perch. Mostly because I can easily find these frozen at my local supermarket. They have a 5 for $20 selection that gives me a month’s selection of seafood. I generally get two packages of tilapia, one salmon, one perch, and one shrimp. Together, it gives me about 15 servings of fish. When I feel like ceviche, if I have lemons, it is just a matter of getting in the freezer and grabbing some fish. Some other popular white fish include:
- Sea Bass
- Mahi Mahi
While white fish seem to be the best, tuna and salmon, which are also great for sushi, are also well-liked for ceviche. Shrimp and lobster are also popular. Other selections to use in ceviche:
This is the ceviche recipe that is the base that I start from. Different taste profiles can be achieved by changing the spices. You can change the citrus as well. I have used lemons, limes, lemons and limes together, oranges, and even tried grapefruit once. Oranges are a little too sweet for my taste and the grapefruit is a little too sour, but that is a personal taste. I use cilantro (coriander) most of the time that I make ceviche, my local grocery has it available in a paste in a tube. This seems to last longer than the fresh. The chili depends on my mood, I am not eating as many spicy foods as I used to.
Serving size: 4 appetizers or 2 entrées.
- 8 ounces of Tilapia
- 2 lemons or other citrus fruits
- 1 Roma tomato
- ½ small red onion
- 1 tablespoon of cilantro
- 3 small chili peppers
- 2 tablespoon oil
- 2 tablespoon vinegar
Items you will need:
- Knife and cutting board
- Glass or stainless bowl
- Small bowl
Getting it together:
- If your fish is frozen, thaw under running water until just slightly frozen. This will make it easier to cut.
- Cut the citrus fruit and squeeze the juice into the glass or stainless bowl. Add the cilantro and chopped chili.
- Cut your fish into cubes, roughly the same size about 1 inch.
- Add the fish to the citrus juice and mix well. Place in refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
- While waiting for the fish, chop the onions, and tomatoes into small pieces
- Place in a small bowl, add the oil and vinegar mix well. Refrigerate. (instead of the oil and vinegar, I sometimes use a roasted red pepper salad dressing)
- After about 30 minutes, the fish should be opaque and ready to use. Some recipes suggest overnight, however, that will often over denature the fish leaving it rubbery. When it reaches being opaque, it is ready.
- Drain the juices from the fish and reserve it. The reserved liquid is often drunk as Leche de Tigre.
- Combine the tomatoes and onion mixture with the fish.
Appetizer: There are a number of ways to serve this. In Miami Beach, I saw that they served 4 different types of ceviche each in a small glass on a flight board, with a small side bowl of t tortilla chips. Placing a small scoop of ceviche on a plate and surrounding it with crackers is another good option. Or present it as you would a dip.
Entrée: As this is a cold dish, it is best to pair it with a cold side. I like it with a tomato and cucumber salad. I also find it a good pair with a potato/egg salad.
This is a basic recipe that can be modified in a number of ways. Of course, the choice of fish and which citrus will modify the taste. Try different vegetables in the mix as well. Cucumbers and avocados seem popular choices.
I will upload my own photos later.