Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Ceviche (or cebiche, seviche, sebiche) is a tasty appetizer dish, very popular in the Pacific-coast countries of South and Central America.
Made from raw fish and/or seafood, or other uncooked or very lightly cooked ingredients marinated in a citric bath of lime and lemon juice, shaved onion, cilantro, salt and spices, it is a staple on the tables of Mexico, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and a number of the MesoAmerican countries. Each country has its own variation on the theme; the difference being the spiciness, the length of time the fish or seafood is allowed to marinate and the ingredients included in the basic recipe. The marinating time can vary from just a few minutes – as when hangover suffering Chileños congregate at 4 o’clock in the morning at fresh seafood stalls in Santiago’s Mercado Central that specialize in ceviche – to 4 or 5 hours, as chefs in Ecuador and Peru prepare their appetizers.
Shrimp, calamari and octopus are steamed for 90 seconds prior to cooling with ice and then added to the marinade. The shrimp is peeled and deveined prior to steaming and the heads and shells are used to make shrimp broth to cook rice.
In my peregrinations up and down South America’s western coast, I have tasted many ceviches. I like very much the ones I had in Ecuador, as they use shrimp, octopus and squid as their seafood base, in a very mild lime, diced tomato and tomato-juice sauce.
In Ecuador, I also tasted a ceviche made from large kernels of white corn (mote) accompanied by corn nuts and fried green plantains.
In Chile, they use merluza (hake), locos’ strips (sliced abalone), crab, or a blend of freshly shucked clams, mussels and sea urchin eggs -- the traditional aforementioned hangover remedy offered at Santiago’s Mercado Central.
At Panama’s Bocas del Toro restaurants, the ceviche was a mixture of shrimp and red onion strips in a spicy lemon/lime marinade with sliced cilantro and green chili flakes.
In Mexico, I had a very spicy ceviche with a very small tomato and cucumber dice, raw fish, plus sliced green serrano peppers and red pepper flakes mixed in the marinade. And in Costa Rica, freshly shredded hearts of palm and a super spicy pepper sauce were part of the recipe.
In Peru, they use lots of garlic and very spicy chili peppers, both fresh green and dried red to spice the marinade, while the main ingredient is also mainly mixed seafood, with raw fish being secondary. An interesting specialty in the northern coast of Peru is ceviche prepared from shark.
Leche de tigre (tiger’s milk) -- the ceviche marinade -- is often served in a small glass to accompany the ceviche. Brightly colored from the spicy chili peppers, it is sometimes mixed with Pisco -- Peru’s and Chile’s white lightning. Leche de tigre is considered a great cure for hangovers the-morning-after, by most South American cultures.
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