At its most basic Ceviche is raw fish or seafood marinated in citrus juice and spices; the acid in the juice “cooks” the flesh in much the same way as heat cooking would. The flesh becomes opaque, the texture firmer and dryer and allows the flavors to remain perfectly uncooked fresh. Needless to say the fish or seafood must be perfectly fresh and pristine. There are probably as many variations of this iconic dish as there are cooks in Peru. Below is a classic version.
Marinade (known as Tiger’s Milk to the initiated)
5 mm piece fresh ginger, cut in half
1 clove garlic
Roughly chopped cilantro (coriander)
Juice of 8 limes
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons hot red chili
1 large red onion, very thinly sliced
500 g sea bass fillet (or other white fish), skinned and trimmed
Tiger’s Milk (above)
A few cilantro sprigs, leaves finely chopped
1 chili, seeded and finely chopped
1 sweet potato, cooked and cut into small cubes (optional)
Fine sea salt
To make the tiger’s milk: Put the fresh ginger, garlic, cilantro and the lime juice in a bowl. Stir and then leave to infuse for 5 minutes. Strain the mixture through a sieve into another bowl. Add salt and chili and mix well. This will keep for 4 hours in the fridge.
To make the ceviche: Rinse the onion and then leave it to soak in iced water for 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly, spread out on a paper towel or a clean kitchen towel to remove any excess water and then place in the fridge until needed. This will reduce the strength of the onion and help to keep the slices crisp.
Cut the fish into uniform strips of around 2 cm. Place in a large bowl, add a good pinch of salt, and mix together gently with a metal spoon. The salt will help open the fish’s pores. Leave this for 2 minutes and then pour over the tiger’s milk and combine gently with the spoon. Leave the fish to “cook” in this marinade for 2 minutes.
Add the onion, cilantro, chili, and sweet potato to the fish. Mix together gently with the spoon and taste to check that the balance of salt, sour, and chili is to your liking. Divide among serving bowls and serve immediately.