CevicheIf there is a national dish for Peru it would have to be ceviche. The cold Humboldt Current that runs northward off the coast has given a bounty of fish to the country for millennia. Add to that a particularly potent variety of lime and the dish becomes a no-brainer.
But, like a lot of the country's cusine, ceviche is an immigrant. The name (also given as cebiche or seviche) derives from the Iberian Spanish word escabeche which refers to marinated fish. Clifford Wright insists the etymology can be traced back to the Arabic iskibaj and the even older sikbaj which refer to the same idea. All of which supports the idea that Peruvian ceviche has its origin in the Iberian peninsula but Peruvians insist a variation of the dish was prepared by the Incas.
It is, as noted Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio has noted, "an ongoing controversy."
Today, there are variations of the dish served up and down the western coast of South America. Why here? Because it is possible to get astonishingly fresh fish in Peru that were parasite free since the time between catch and table was usually less than one morning. Elsewhere in the world, this is not possible. These days, though, you can purchase frozen fish (or freeze it yourself for 24 hours) that eliminate the danger although it is heresy to a ceviche purist.
The most common fish to use in ceviche is Corvina, which is a general name for a several types of "drums or croakers" that are found worldwide. In the U.S. this would include Atlantic Croaker, Black Drum, Red Drum, Kingfish, Spot, Spotted or Speckled Sea Trout, Weakfish, White Sea Bass, Orangemouth Corvina, Yellowfin Corvina, Golden Corvina, Shortfin Corvina, and so on. More of these varieties come from the Pacific, and are more available on the West Coast. Bass and trout are completely different varieties of fish and should not be used.
Another key ingredient for Peruvian ceviche is the pepper. The Peruvian aji is an orange colored pepper about the shape and size of an Anaheim chili. It has a bit of bite but not tremendously so. I haven't really found a suitable equivalent stateside but I like it a touch hot so I use a serrano pepper portioned judiciously. And you never find ceviche in Peru served without boiled camote, or sweet potato, and choclo, Peruvian corn. They are a perfect foil to the sharp taste of the dish itself.
Sadly, a fad for Peruvian food stateside has brought it to the northern hemisphere where you can find a lot of really bad versions of the dish. The key to the dish is to have the freshest ingredients and by freshest I mean it's best to have seen the fish flipping around. I've had a lot of ceviche but, by far, the best was in Cabo Blanco in northern Peru where the grouper was caught that morning on a line simply tossed into the clear Pacific on the beach behind the restaurant.
It is best to use two types of white meat fish as fresh as humanly possible. Cut into 1 inch cubes and place in a mixing bowl. Add the onion, garlic and pepper and mix well. Squeeze the juice of the limes over all then add the vinegar and salt & pepper. Mix well again and let sit refrigerated for at least one hour (in Peru, the fish sits only for 10-15 minutes due to the incredibly high acid content of the lime juice).
|comment posted by: Joshua on september 27, 2007 @ 3:33 pm|
Well man, I tried it out.
|comment posted by: Joshua on september 27, 2007 @ 3:35 pm|
Forgot to mention I used salt & pepper, garlic as prescribed.
|comment posted by: mel fitzgerald on september 9, 2009 @ 11:44 pm|
Hey there cliff. We were just checking out your recipe here. Will give it a go next time. I just kicked off my own blog with one we made the other weekend. Hope all is well for you. :)
|comment posted by: mel on september 25, 2009 @ 1:57 am|
hey Cliff. :) Greetings from Australia. thought I'd send you my blog link so you can check out my ceviche attempt. Tasted divine. I got the limes from my parent's lime tree and they are very acidic and very juice. It was a winner. Hope you've been keeping well. Sasha says hi. We love our Andean fabrics you sent over. They have pride of place around the house. Anyways... take care. :)
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