Back in my pro-surfing days, I was catching some early morning waves on the Atlantic shore of Costa Rica. Come noon, the sun was hot enough to fry an egg, so I took shelter in a beachside bar and grill. When I casually asked the waitress for chips and salsa, she looked deeply offended. “You’re not in Mexico, you’re in Costa Rica. We got ceviche and cold beer. Is that ok?” Embarrassed by own ignorance, I smiled and accepted her offer.
So turns out that Latin America is made up of a whole bunch of countries, each with their own cuisine, culture and dialect?! Ceviche, also spelled “seviche,” is a dish served throughout Latin America, but the ingredients are dependent on what the location has to offer. Typical proteins in the dish are scallops, shrimp, white fish, conch, octopus, and squid. As for the rest, there’s no phantom recipe. Other ingredients found in ceviche include, but are not limited to: green peppers, diced tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, parsley, celery, ketchup and chilies. And all ceviches have an acid-based marinade, typically either citrus juice (lime, lemon, orange juice) and/or vinegar. The acid softens the fibers in the fish and prevents any growth of microorganisms. Fear of raw fish is not a good enough reason to pass up ceviche. After an hour in the limejuice, the fish turns white and tastes as though it has been cooked through.
In Mexico, ceviche is made with tomatoes and served with raw onions and tortillas. In Ecuador, potato chips and popcorn are an accompaniment. In Peru, local corn-on-the cob and yucca chips come with the dish. Ceviche can be served as an appetizer or an entrée. Fish is healthy and easy to digest, so don’t let your American subconscious tell you that raw fish doesn’t constitute an entire meal, because in many parts of the world, it’s what’s for dinner. It’s great in the summertime with a cold brew.
A little known fact about ceviche: the juice left in the bowl after the ceviche is consumed is referred to as “Tiger Milk.” Some drink it to cure a hangover, while others add vodka and call it a cocktail.
Red Snapper Ceviche
1 whole red snapper or two fillets (courtesy Fish Tales of Brooklyn)
A handful of small, shelled shrimp, peeled and de-veined
6 large dry scallops, tenders removed
The juice of five limes
1 mango, diced
2 tablespoons of salt
1/2 cup cilantro, minced
1 small red onion, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded, de-veined and diced
Rinse the snapper, shrimp and scallops under cold water to remove any sea grime. Cut the fillets into small pieces with a very sharp knife. Do the same to the shrimp and the scallops. Place all three into a shallow baking dish. Add the onion, jalapeno, lime juice and salt. Toss. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour, tossing every fifteen minutes or so. Add the mangos and cilantro right before you serve.