At the age of 25 I’ve learned a lot from traveling the world. As a traveling cook I’ve been able to taste a lot, too. With all the tasting its inevitable that after some time my palate has become very sophisticated, yet I’ve still had some hurdles to get over. Ceviche has been, or was one of those hurdles.
For the longest time ceviche was something I stayed away from and every time I saw it on a menu in any restaurant I would never order it. The funny thing is I love sushi, so it wasn’t the idea of raw fish that turned me off. It’s hard to remember now, but I think it had something to do with a bad ceviche experience and a very bad Mexican style restaurant. I didn’t know then, but that was the red flag. Eyebrows should be raised if you come across ceviche at your typical “gringo” style Mexican restaurant. Ceviche is a dish rooted in South American cuisine. Luckily, I knew I would be spending the first few months of 2014 traveling up the coast of Chile, Peru, and Ecuador. If you’re going to try a dish that may be foreign to you why not go to its birthplace right?
So for those new to ceviche, but love South American cuisine and need something to liven up your plate, I’ll break it down for you:
Ceviche: What is it?
In the simplest form its fresh raw fish that is cured or “cooked” by using some type of citrus juice, typically lemon or lime; spices and seasonings are also added.
Where Does It Come From?
This is disputed however most people (historians) would lean toward Peru. However, ceviche is a dish that is consumed widely throughout South America, particularly Peru, Ecuador and Columbia, with different styles.
How Do I Make It?
Here is a very simple yet vibrant take on ceviche using maracuya fruit, which is very similar to passion fruit. I had a ceviche like this on the beach in Los Roques, Venezuela and it was the perfect flavorful and light dish to have when you’re lounging on the beach.
Recipe for Shrimp Ceviche w/ fresh Maracuya
1 ½ – 2 pound raw shrimp (deveined and cut in half)
1 large or 2 small red onions sliced thinly as possible
1 ½ cup tomato diced into small cubes
½ cup green bell pepper diced into small cubes
juice of 5-6 limes (use these limes for the zest as well)
juice of 1-2 oranges
pulp of 2-3 maracuya fruit or passion fruit
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 bunch of fresh cilantro (coriander) chopped
salt to taste
Take the deveined shrimp and poach in hot water for about 30 seconds. If you’re feeling like adding extra depth of flavor you can add peppercorn and chopped coriander stems to the water and simmer for 5 minutes before poaching the shrimp.
Remove shrimp from water and set aside. The shrimp should still be a bit opaque in the middle.
In a large bowl combine, onions, tomato, bell pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and mix. Add shrimp, lime juice and zest, orange juice, and salt to taste.
- With ceviche it is important that there be a balance between salt and citrus, but you can play around with this and adjust to your preference. The most important part of this dish is to allow it to marinate and for the salt to draw out the liquid. This recipe is adapted from how my friend (who is from Ecuador) makes it and the Ecuadorian style of ceviche tends to have a lot of liquid!
At this stage add the pulp of the maracuya (or passion fruit if using), 2 tablespoon of olive oil, and freshly chopped cilantro. Mix well and let marinate.
- This ceviche is great as a snack, light lunch, or party hor d’oeurve. If you are doing some summer entertaining and you want to serve for a party this can be made up to three hours ahead of time and kept under refrigeration. 30- 40 minutes before you serve remove from the fridge to take away some of the chill.
- For some added texture and flavor diced avocado can be added or for a spicy kick add finely minced green chilies or aji chilies.
- Other serving ideas: boiled yucca root and hominy, fried hominy, or sweet potatoes.