Ceviche is by far Peru’s most famous and popular dish. The idea is to get the freshest seafood possible and toss it in lime juice and other flavourings to cure the flesh slightly.
Since food is often best in its birthplace, I couldn’t wait to go on a bit of a pilgrimage while we were in Lima, Peru to learn more about ceviche and check out some top cevicherias.
I asked Ericka from Delectable Peru to take me under her wing with a visit to one of her favourite cevicherias, El Veridico De Fidel, where we would be shown how to make a classic ceviche (and eat plenty of samples, of course!).
The ingredients, freshly picked up from Lima’s ports, were waiting for us to get stuck in.
We had to don attractive headgear to be allowed in the prep area.
This is the recipe we followed:
Classic Peruvian ceviche
- 1kg Cojinoa fish (or any firm-fleshed white fish), cleaned and diced into 2cm chunks
- About 15 limes, freshly squeezed for 200ml juice
- 3 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp ajinomoto (later I learned this is MSG and can be omitted)
- 2 red onions, thinly sliced (about 150g)
- Small handful of fresh coriander leaves
- 2tbsp hot salsa (recipe follows), or to taste
To make one cup of hot salsa, blend together the following in a blender or food processor:
- 100g celery
- 10g garlic
- 10g ginger
- 5 aji lemon peppers (a mild, fruity red chilli as modelled by Mark below)
- 5ml oil
- 5ml condensed milk
1) Put the fish pieces into a large mixing bowl.
2) Add all the other ingredients and stir to combine.
3) Allow to marinate for no more than a few minutes while you decorate your serving plate with choclo (sweetcorn), sweet potato and lettuce.
4) Feel free to get silly with some of the ingredients.
5) Serve the ceviche (don’t waste any of that tasty juice) and enjoy!
Ideally the seafood should only be allowed to sit in the marinade for up to five minutes to just take away the edge of the rawness. If left too long, the acid from the lime juice overcooks the flesh, leaving it with an unpleasant mealy, mushy texture and a watery taste – not what you want! The best ceviche should have fresh, citrussy, sour and salty flavours with firm, meaty flesh. Ceviche is often served with popcorn which is great for soaking up the juices left on the plate.
You can also make ceviche with different varieties of seafood, such as shrimp for prawns, octopus, or these black clams.
Leche de Tigre (tiger’s milk) is a drink for only the brave – it is made with ceviche juice mixed with a little milk and garnished with seafood.
Yummy, but an acquired taste as the milk has a tendency to curdle with all that lime juice.
The classic Peruvian cocktail, Pisco Sour, is a great boozy drink to have with ceviche.
The universal ratio to remember is 3,1,1,1 (3 shots Pisco, 1 shot lime juice, 1 shot sugar syrup and 1egg white). Shake like crazy with plenty of ice, pour into an old-fashioned glass and sprinkle Angostura bitters on top of the foam. You can experiment with flavoured Pisco if you like – the bottles below contain strawberries, coca leaves, lemon zest and much more.