If you stopped by my post from last week, Massaged Kale Salad w/ Toasted Pine Nuts, Dried Cranberries & Shaved Parmesan, you know that over the last two weeks we had the awesome experience of exchanging traditional American and Peruvian dishes with a culinary class in Peru. Last week we demonstrated to each other via live internet streaming video how to prepare the dishes, and then we went back and cooked the other country’s dishes in our respective kitchens. This week, we met again via internet to show each other pictures of the dishes we had prepared and to discuss our experiences with each dish – e.g., did we have issues finding the ingredients, did we enjoy the flavors, what did we learn about the other culture’s food. A few things that I learned through this experience – jokes that aren’t particularly funny do not translate well (long story about one of my classmates :-)), Peru has several thousand varieties of potatoes, and the higher altitude in Peru greatly affected their ability to bake the warm apple dumpling recipe we shared with them. Overall, the exchange was incredible and I want to share one of the Peruvian dishes that I prepared – Ceviche (“seh-BEE-chay”).
Ceviche is a dish made from fresh seafood, usually white fish, that is “cooked” using the juice of a citrus fruit. The acid in the citrus juice actually changes the structure of the proteins in the fish similar to cooking with heat. So, the fish is not raw like sushi, but has a similar fresh taste. Ceviche is a very light, refreshing dish. It is not only popular in Peru, but it is actually part of the country’s national identity, much like our very own apple pie (a fun variation of which I will share with you in another post). Here is how the Peruvian class described the importance of ceviche to us:
“Peru is probably the only country in the world where ceviche is regarded by its population as part of the national identity, being a dish widely consumed mainly in the north of the country and also revered as central to its cuisine, to the point [sic] being formally declared as National Cultural Heritage and cataloged by Peruvians as the dish that best represents this country. Its history dates back to pre-Columbian times. The dish is served in restaurants known as ‘cebichería'”
Peruvian Ceviche (1 appetizer portion to be shared)
300 g, about 10.5 oz White fish (flounder, sea bass, tilapia, etc.)
- 1/2 Red onion, julienned
- 1/2 Ají limo, which is a Peruvian chili (can substitute Habanero pepper, but you may want to cut back on the amount)
- Several ice cubes
- Lime juice from 1 or 2 limes (adjust to ensure fish is coated with juice if necessary)
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- Coriander, which is fresh cilantro
- 2 lettuce leaves
- 1 cooked corn
- 1 boiled sweet potato
- Cut the fish into small cubes, 2 cm each
- Rinse the fish and set aside, be sure fish is kept refrigerated or in bowl set on ice while you are preparing the other ingredients. Cooking with citric acid does not kill bacteria and parasites as well as heat, so it is important to use very fresh fish and to keep the fish cold during preparation, holding and service.
- Julienne the red onions. Julienne is a knife cut that is traditionally a small matchstick strip 1/8 in x/ 1/8 in x 2 in. With onions, you will have a thinly sliced, curved cut instead of a matchstick.
- Brunoise the Peruvian chili (ají limo). Brunoise is a knife cut that is a tiny cube 1/8 in x 1/8 in x 1/8 in. First, julienne the pepper cutting it into 1/8 in x 1/8 in x/ 2 in strips and then cut the strips into cubes. If you are using Habanero peppers instead, be sure to wear gloves while handling them.
- Rub the inside of a glass bowl with a slice of the Peruvian chili (ají limo) and add the fish and onions.
- Add several ice cubes to the bowl and salt and pepper.
- Pour lime juice over fish. When squeezing the limes, do not press too hard to prevent bitterness.
- Add the brunoise of Peruvian chili, to taste
- Toss the fish in the lime juice with the chili. The fish is ready to serve w/in 1 minute, but let marinate in the lime juice for several minutes if you prefer additional “cooking” of the fish.
- Serve the ceviche with finely chopped coriander (fresh cilantro), sliced boiled corn and sliced boiled sweet potato. Garnish with lettuce leaves.
I really enjoyed the flavor of the ceviche we prepared, but the texture did seem similar to sushi to many of us. So, depending on where you are located, cutting the fish into pieces smaller than what we did (see this picture) is likely to please more American palates.
There are several variations of ceviche from other countries which call for shrimp instead of fish, grapefruit juice instead of lime juice, or the addition of ketchup. This recipe is the traditional Peruvian version, so if you are going to try ceviche you should start here :-)