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What is Ceviche?

Wednesday, March 17th, 2021
Ceviche on a plate with avocado

Raw fish dishes are a standard of seaside cooking, ranging from nagiri to poke bowls. 

Ceviche is another entree you may have seen on some menus that is made with raw fish and pronounced “seh-vee-chay”. The following is a description of what this entree is, its South American roots, and advice for creating your own ceviche.




What is Ceviche?


Ceviche is made of diced bits of raw seafood, marinated in a lemon or lime juice concoction. The acid in the citrus ‘cooks’ the fish until it becomes opaque and soaks in the flavor. This method is known as denaturing and achieves a similar effect as cooking with heat. The fish is then mixed with delicious and colorful ingredients like peppers, cilantro, and onions. Ceviche is an uncomplicated, yet invigorating dish where brilliant flavors and the freshest seafood are highlighted.


The History of Ceviche


Essentially a chilled fish stew with origins in South America, ceviche eventually spread into Mexico and Central America and gained popularity there.  Because of the need to preserve food, The ceviche style of ‘cooking’ fish is a standard in coastal South American food. The Incan people preserved seafood with salt, peppers, and fruit juice. The introduction of limes from Spanish conquistadors established citrus in the area.


A variety of different types of ceviche exist across Central and South America. As Peru’s national dish, ceviche is plentiful and varied in Peruvian kitchens and eating establishments alike.  The dish is often complimented with slivers of chilled sweet potatoes and served with corn-on-the-cob there. In Mexico, ceviche is generally viewed as an appetizer and is served with tortillas.  Ecuadorian ceviche mixes tomato juice and shrimp into the mix. Caribbean ceviche features coconut milk, giving it a creamy flavor. When Latin flavors made their way to Florida in the 80’s, ceviche was introduced to the United States.


Ceviche Ingredients


Raw fish, seasonings, and citrus juice are the main ingredients in all ceviche. The most important element is the raw fish.  Purchase your fish from a trusted fish counter or fishmonger to ensure the best flavor and freshness. Remember that the freshest fish is firm to the touch and smells briny, not fishy. Always purchase the seafood the same day you make the ceviche.


The best texture of fish for the citrus flavors to be absorbed is firm, white, and flaky. Red snapper, flounder, halibut, and mahi-mahi are some of the best fish for making ceviche.  Other types of seafood such as squid, shrimp, or scallops can be used in this surprisingly versatile dish. Remember to always blanch your shellfish to guarantee food safety.


The various toppings used in ceviche recipes add color, brightness, and texture. Fresh herbs like basil and cilantro work well with the other flavors. Tropical fruits such as papayas, pineapple, and mango can add a lovely sweetness, while peppers add spice and heat. The variety of ingredients that can be used in this dish are practically endless.


How to Make Ceviche


The essential procedure to making ceviche is the same throughout all recipe variations. The fish needs to be chopped up and marinated in fruit juice. Encasing the fish in plastic wrap and keeping it in a refrigerator until you are ready to cut it up will safeguard the fish’s taste and texture, and allow the whole process to go more smoothly. Using a sharp long knife will help you not damage the delicate meat of the fish.


To marinate the fish, be sure to cover it completely with citrus juice in order to cut down on exposure to air.  That kind of exposure can cause an inconsistent texture in the dish. Marinating the meat for too short a time will cause the meat to be too raw, but longer will cause the meat to become gummy and over-cooked. Keep an eye on the fish as it marinates to the rawness level you are looking for.  Once the fish is marinated to your liking, mix in toppings and serve chilled.


This bright, delicious dish is the perfect seafood meal for a warm day. Looking to satisfy your appetite for this flavorful dish without the hassle of making it yourself? Visit any of our locations today to try our famous ceviche or check out our many other menu items here.