Friday, September 9, 2011

The Dish that Defines Peruvian Cuisine - Ceviche de Pescado

Mention Peruvian cooking to someone and they are more than likely to respond with the word ceviche. Ceviche is a Peruvian creation. It is usually made with fresh fish marinated and thereby cooked in lemon or lime juice. Sometimes other seafood are used...squid, octopus and/or shrimp. It is spicy, tangy and quite delicious!

My mother always told us that the best ceviche was made with Corvina. I usually make ceviche with Tilapia or Corvina when it is available. Today I wanted to try something different. I asked the fish man at a local Japanese market what fish he would recommend for ceviche. Almost without hesitation, he pointed to the beautiful fresh slabs of Mahimahi.

I decided to take his advice and bought a pound of fresh mahimahi for tonight's dinner. Although ceviche is usually served as an appetizer or first course, I thought it would be a good light dinner for my family.

I searched the internet for a good Peruvian recipe to compare it with the one my mom taught me. I found an interesting video of an interview of two Peruvian chefs. One of the chefs gave a couple of tips for making a good ceviche. The video is below. It is in Spanish. One tip is to not squeeze the life out of a lemon in order to get all the juice out. By doing so we run the risk of touching the white membrane which will make the dish bitter.

Another thing I learned is that there is a name for my favorite part of the ceviche. The tasty liquid that remains after the ceviche has been consumed (or served along with the fish) is called "Leche de Tigre"..Tiger's Milk. Here is a description I found here.

Only a true ceviche lover would dare try tiger’s milk (leche de tigre), which is the leftover ceviche marinade served in a small glass. Brightly colored from the spicy chili peppers, and sometimes mixed with vodka, tiger’s milk is considered a great cure for hangovers.
I think the vodka would ruin the deliciousness of the lovely liquid.

My Mother's Recipe for Ceviche

1 lb. very fresh fish (not frozen)
5-6 medium sized lemons or limes or 3 large Meyer Lemons (which I used)
1 Jalapeno or two small Hawaiian Chili Peppers (seeded)
1 Small bunch of fresh parsley is traditionally used, minced OR 1/2 green pepper sliced thinly (optional)
1 large onion, sliced thinly
3 Garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. Aji Amarillo (unless you are able to find fresh aji amarillo)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Slice the fish thinly but not too thinly that it falls apart. Place in a Pyrex bowl. Add the lemon juice and blend well. Add the remaining ingredients except, salt, pepper and parsley or green peppers. Cover and let marinate for at least an hour or two, maybe longer. I left mine on the counter top. After a this time, check to see that the fish is opaque. If so, the fish is cooked in the citrus juice. Salt and pepper to taste and top with the parsley or green pepper slices.

This dish is traditionally served on lettuce leaves and accompanied by boiled sweet potatoes and corn.

Don't forget to drink la leche de tigre!


Alexandra said...

Ahhh, I used to eat this quite frequently as a teen - so good!Some people are afraid of getting sick from the raw fish, but if it's thoroughly frozen before preparation, it kills all the parasites and other nasties. They also have it in Panama made from corvina and fresh Panama limes. Thanks for sharing - maybe I'll get my courage up to try this!

Veronica Gantley said...

What a great recipe and cute little website. I will visit often.

Esther G. said...

Alexandra, I hope you share your recipe.

Veronica, thanks for stopping by. You have a wonderful blog too.