I recently traveled to Peru and took a deep dive into their cuisine. I consumed quite a lot of ceviche, which is the national dish.
Ceviche is defined as raw fish marinated in lime juice and seasonings, often garnished with fresh vegetables, and typically served as an appetizer or lunch. Peruvian ceviche uses lime, aji peppers, onion, and sometimes chicle, which is a large-kernel corn, in the preparation.
The history of the dish is murky. We had a guide who told us that the dish originated with fishermen who sated their hunger with fresh catches that they cut, cleaned, dressed with lime and ate while they worked. Other sources claim that the dish in its current form arose after the Spanish conquest, when limes were brought to South America.
Regardless of its origins, the dish is delicious, healthy and simple to make. The key is to use the freshest fish from a reputable market, and don’t marinate it too long or the texture will degrade or turn rubbery.
The ceviche we consumed generally featured local white fish or trout, which in Peru was pink in color and resembled salmon. But it can be made with any fish including tuna, snapper, salmon, et cetera.
The pictures below are from restaurants in Cusco and Lima and are quite elaborate. The version here is a home cook’s version adapted to ingredients readily available here in the US.
1 pound fresh, firm white fish fillets (such as sole, trout or flounder)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
½ a Peruvian aji pepper, or a jalapeno (to taste)
4 limes, freshly squeezed
½ of a small red onion, thinly sliced (about ⅓ cup)
Optional toppings: sliced cucumber, chopped avocado, raw corn kernels
Slice the fish into bite-sized pieces, and set it aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix the dressing ingredients. Pour the dressing over the fish and toss gently. Seal the bowl and refrigerate it for two hours.
When ready to serve, place the fish on a plate with dressing. Top it with sliced onions and other garnishes. Serve immediately.