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Ceviche : The complete guide

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This dish is consumed, I believe, nationwide, whether in coastal regions or the highlands; it’s so popular that it’s found in every region. It’s so widespread across the country that it has adopted different spellings, whether ceviche or cebiche, the preparation is basically the same: fresh fish, lime juice, onions, and chili peppers. Is the main touch the lime or the fresh fish? Let’s find out!

Table of Contents

Main Ingredients

As mentioned before, chefs prepare Ceviche by basically chopping fish and adding lime juice. These two basic elements achieve a fantastic blend. Thanks to these two ingredients, chefs create the Peruvian flag dish. But did you already know about these ingredients?

Fish

The fish is crucial. Many chefs emphasize that it must be fresh. The choice of fish will be crucial to having a GOOD ceviche. Not all fish are suitable for cooking with lime juice, as it must remain firm after cutting, provide a not-too-potent flavor, and not fall apart after soaking in lime juice. Some popular fish used in Peruvian ceviche include sole, red snapper, tilapia, halibut, and mackerel.

Lime

People around the world who have tried to make this delicious plate in their countries mention that it doesn't come out the same even with very fresh fish nearby. The question is, why? Well, ceviche also has as its soul the lime juice. Our lime, in Peruvian territory, has the acidic touch that the fish and onions need to generate this explosion of flavors. In some North American or even South American countries, there are "limes" or those large lemons that do not resemble what we have in Peru. The Peruvian lime for ceviche is small, acidic, and green.

Where does ceviche come from?

Historians and anthropologists indicate that ceviche could have originated among the Moche. This was a coastal civilization that began to flourish in what is now northern Peru almost 2000 years ago. It is believed that they used fermented banana-passion fruit juice to use it as a cooking point for fish. However, some research surrounding this star dish indicates that it was the Incas who fermented this protein with chicha. Other commentators also report that on the Peruvian coast, long before the arrival of Europeans, people in the area ate fish with salt and chili peppers.

History

Over 2000 years ago, in the coastal areas of Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia, the pre-Incan Moche culture is believed to have prepared a dish based on freshly caught fish along with the acidic juice of a very popular local fruit: tumbo. Over the years, this way of preparing ceviche changed. The Incas slightly altered the recipe by marinating the fish with chicha and chili peppers, and after the arrival of the Spanish, they added ingredients such as bitter orange and onion.

It is precisely with the Spanish colonists that the name emerged. According to the RAE, it can be spelled in 4 ways: cebiche, ceviche, sebiche, or seviche. Etymologically, the name of this dish has 3 variants: It comes from the root "cebo." The second variant comes from the word iskebech, which means escabeche in Arabic, which has the meaning of cooked in acid or vinegar. And the third and final variant comes from Quechua siwichi, which means fresh fish or tender fish.

Ceviche Recipe

The preparation of this dish is very simple, here we explain step by step how to prepare it:

  • Put the chopped onion in ice water and soak for 5 minutes, then dry them well.
  • Cut the fish into 1½ or 2 cm cubes (cutting into cubes instead of long cuts will ensure a good distribution of raw and cooked fish on the outside)
  • Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt. Let sit for a minute.
  • Add the citrus juices and chili peppers, let marinate for 10 minutes.
  • Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. After marinating for 10 to 15 minutes, the outside of the fish will start to firm up, while the center will remain tender and moist, which is a bit unusual.
  • Let rest for 15 to 25 minutes – medium term –, and 25 minutes for medium-well done.
  • Divide the fish and marinade between 2 bowls, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve immediately.

Benefits of Eating Ceviche

Ceviche is not just a dish to be enjoyed, but it also provides nutrients to our bodies; it is very healthy and nutritious. Eating fresh fish provides us with a considerable source of proteins. As for the lime juice, it increases vitamin C and other antioxidants. Regarding the chili peppers, they have shown to have anti-inflammatory properties that stimulate metabolism. Finally, this dish is very low in calories, so it will not contribute trans fats to your body.

Types of Ceviche

To prepare ceviche, not only fish but also variations with seafood or squid are used. Here are some variations:

Peruvian Classic Ceviche

The traditional ceviche. This dish is prepared with white-fleshed fish, lime juice, red onion sliced in julienne, corn, cilantro, and chili pepper. This ceviche is served accompanied by sweet potatoes and lettuce as a bed.

Octopus Ceviche

This recipe requires some cooking time of at least 30 minutes. For octopus ceviche, you need to chop the octopus, boil it with garlic and celery, and let it cook until it curls. It can be served with red onion, bell pepper, yellow chili pepper, and a couple of tablespoons of natural yogurt.

Mixed Ceviche

This ceviche is a very subtle variation of the classic ceviche, but with the addition of seafood such as octopus, squid, or shrimp to the original recipe.

Shrimp Ceviche

Although not as popular in coastal areas, this ceviche has gained popularity in Arequipa. Basically, it consists of peeled shrimp mixed with lime juice and salt. They are allowed to rest and are served with sweet potatoes.

Black Clam Ceviche

Black clams are clams that have a characteristic black juice. Popular in the northern region of the country, their preparation is similar to fish ceviche, but with a slightly more intense flavor than regular ceviche. These are combined with lime juice, rocoto pepper, red onion, and garlic. They are usually accompanied by plantain chips.

Whether you're in the coast, highlands, or jungle, give yourself the chance to try this delicious dish. You can choose to have it as an appetizer for a heartier meal or enjoy a larger portion as a main course.

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