Ceviche, also spelled seviche or cebiche, is a fish or seafood dish cooked or cured in an acidic marinade. Lemon and lime juices are the most commonly used citrus juices because of the high acid content, but orange and grapefruit juices are sometimes added for flavor. Ceviche is most often served as a chilled appetizer.
The meat is technically denatured, where the fish and seafood turn opaque and the meat is firm to the touch. The proteins coagulate, but is not cooked. This dish differs from an escabeche since the fish in ceviche is essentially raw (no parasites or bacteria are killed).
Cooking or marinating times vary with the recipe: the fish may marinate for a period of time to denature the meat, or it may just be tossed with the marinade and served immediately. If the fish is cured in the marinade, the ceviche is often drained before serving, and then other fresh ingredients are added. If the fish is served raw, then the ceviche is served immediately after mixing with the marinade.
Some locales serve the drained marinade used in the ceviche making process, but separately – leche de tigre is a specialty in Peruvian restaurants.
History of Ceviche
Ceviche has a long history in Latin America, from Spain to South America, but its history is somewhat gray. While most agree that its origins trace to Peru, some believe ceviche was introduced by Arabians. It was historically made with fermented fruit or vegetable juices, and the use of lemon and lime juices started with the introduction of citrus fruits by Spanish colonists in Peru.
Seafood Used in Ceviche
The type of fish and shellfish to use in ceviche vary, and is usually based on what is the most popular seafood caught in the area, or what is most abundant. Tilapia, corvina, sea bass, shrimp, shark, salmon, tuna, sole, and red snapper are all popular fish to use in ceviche.
Ceviche Regional Variations
- Peru – The ‘Original’ recipe. They have a national ceviche date in Peru. June 28 is el Día Nacional del Cebiche, or National Ceviche Day. Recipes here are often mixed with boiled or steamed corn and sweet potato, or served with sweet potato or plantain chips. Corvina or sea bass, shrimp, shark, sole are all popular here, depending on where you go regionally.
- Ecuador – Ecuadorian ceviche has a tomato base and most recipes contain tomato, lime, and salt. Shrimp is most popular type of seafood for ceviche.
- Mexico – Unlike other places, the ceviche is served ‘wet’ or ‘dry’. The dry version is popularly drained from the marinade and served with chips, on top of tostadas, or inside tacos. Shrimp and tilapia are popular ceviche seafood choices.
- Panama – Ceviche prepared here has very hot peppers, onions, celery, cilantro, and lemon juice. Corvina, shrimp, squid are all popular here.
- Costa Rica – The ceviche here includes chopped bell peppers, onions, parsley, and vinegar with lime juice. Corvina or white sea bass is the classic fish used in Costa Rica.
- Bahamas / Southern Florida – Conch ceviche is the specialty of this region, containing conch, tomatoes, onions, lime juice, and peppers. Different bell peppers are used for color.
- South Florida / The Keys – Key West Pink Shrimp is used here.
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