Raw fish, salt, and chili peppers. That was the first recipe for Cebiche more than 500 years ago. It wasn’t until the arrival of the Spanish conquerors, with their ships full of new and mysterious ingredients, that Peruvians discovered limes and onions, and suddenly they found themselves adding new elements to their native meal, changing the flavor forever. But one thing remained untouched: the technique and the freshness of the ingredients. I will never tire of repeating that freshness is key here. Unless the ingredients on your table spent the previous night still in the sea, don’t even bother trying this. Never use frozen fish, the quality will be compromised if you do so.
Cebiche is the biggest pride of our gastronomy, the glorious King of our tables, and we honestly believe that ours is the best. We look at other versions with suspicion, disapproving this or that. One could say we are purists (or snobs), as we favor our staple 5-ingredient dish of fish, salt, onion, lime and chili pepper. Nevertheless, a hint of garlic, ginger, or celery juice really go a long way and enliven an already perfect dish.
This minimalistic delicacy is also praised for its healthy properties. It is the perfect addition to any diet; extra wholesome because the nutrients aren’t killed by heat; miraculous at overcoming the effects of a hangover (as strange as this may sound); and greatly sought after as a powerful aphrodisiac.
A rule of thumb when it comes to Cebiche is to have it only for lunch. Cebicherias don’t even bother opening at night, but I think this is more cultural than based on any practical reason. Another tradition is to accompany it with an icy cold beer, a Pisco Sour, or an Inka Cola (our national fizzy drink made of lemongrass). Nevertheless, I must confess that a herbal, acidic white wine (Sauvignon Blanc) is a better choice. This discovery turned my Cebiche world upside down and I never looked back.
Peruvian cuisine has mastered the art of adapting every good technique that comes to its shores, so when we noticed that the Japanese immigrants devoured their raw fish without marinating it for very long, we started to prepare Cebiche on the spot, simply mixing all the ingredients and putting them on the table. Peruvian limes adjust well to this technique, as their acidity is so intense that a few minutes are enough to impregnate the fish with savor and tang. We use Aji Limo, but in replacement you can use habanero or jalapeño pepper, or you can look for Aji Amarillo paste. A word of caution when using this: it can easily overwhelm an untrained palate, so adjust the amount to your taste. Finish the dish with thick slices of sweet potatoes to tame the heat of the chili pepper, some boiled corn, and voilà! You are ready for a treat.
- 1.5 lb sea bass or sole fillets cut into bite size cubes
- 1 red onion, cut in fine slices
- ½ Ají Limo pepper, chopped very fine, Salt
- ½ garlic clove, chopped very fine
- Juice of 12 limes
- 2 tablespoons coriander leaves, sliced
- 1 sweet potato, boiled, peeled and sliced
- 1 giant kernel corn, boiled in water with 1 tablespoon of sugar
- Lettuce leaves
- Combine fish and onion
- and wash them together. Drain well.
- *Season with salt and Ají .
- *Add lime juice, and a couple of ice cubes or a couple of tablespoons of iced water.
- *Let rest for 5 minutes. Discard the ice. Sprinkle with coriander leaves.
- *Serve immediately with lettuce, giant kernel corn and sweet potatoes.
This article has been re-written as part of the giveaway @ FLAMBOYANT EATS BLOG: http://www.flanboyanteats.com/cooking_recipes/blogalicious-weekend-is-in-d-c-im-speaking-giving-away-2-tickets/
For the original article posted on April 25, 2011 go to: http://perudelights.com/cebiche/