Ceviche, a Latin dish of international prestige

Already the ancient natives fished in the sea or the rivers and brought their catch to the table to prepare the dish that has come to our days as an internationally recognized delicacy: ceviche, although there are palates that do not resist it due to its acidity.

In Inca times, fish was macerated with chicha de jora, an Andean alcoholic drink, but with the conquest it was the Spanish, who did not consume raw fish, who incorporated the lemon to marinate the ceviche. In this way, the milky juice (tiger’s milk) that released the fish was obtained.

For Javier Pulgar Vidal, Peruvian geographer, philosopher and historian, who died in 2003, the word ‘serviche’ comes from ‘siwichi’, a Quechua terminology that translates as fresh or tender fish.

Although there are also other versions in which the word ‘cebiche’ is used, which comes from the word bait, which refers to a delicacy or food until the 16th century.

There are also people who argue that ‘ceviche’ comes from the word ‘escabeche’ of Arabic origin.

This meaning has its origin in the fact that in the city of Arequipa a type of shrimp ceviche is called “sivinche” in which vinegar is used instead of lemon, which makes it very similar to an Andalusian-style pickled sardines.

Various accompaniments in each country.

But what is ceviche? It is a dish of raw fish or shellfish cut into pieces with lemon juice, chopped onion, chili pepper and salt. Depending on the area, it is presented with various accompaniments.

Ceviche is cooked in very different ways and is a traditional dish in all the Latin American countries bordering the Pacific, such as Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Panama, Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala or Honduras.

However, it is in the Peruvian gastronomy where this dish is most renowned and for which it is known worldwide, in addition to being recognized by the prestigious publications specialized in international cuisine.

Three examples perfectly illustrate the importance of this food in the South American country. In 2004, ceviche was declared by the National Institute of Culture (INC) as Cultural Heritage of the Peruvian Nation, considering it one of the main dishes of Peru.

In addition, in 2008 June 28 of each year was instituted as “Ceviche Day” throughout the country.

In ancient Peru, about two thousand years ago, at the time of the Mochica culture, a dish was prepared based on fresh fish, which was cooked with the fermented juice of tumbo (Passiflora mollisima), a local fruit. During the Inca Empire, fish was marinated with chicha (a traditional fermented drink made from corn).

In general it is known that on the coasts of Piura, Trujillo and Lima the ancient natives had the custom of eating raw fish, information that has been collected through the references written by the Spanish conquerors upon their arrival, where they are described to the natives of the coasts as consumers of raw fish seasoned with salt and chili.

But the Spanish colonization also influenced the way of preparing fish, with the introduction of new ingredients, such as onion, lemon and sour orange, due to their acidic condition. Thus, the development of lemon cultivation in Peruvian lands managed to shorten the preparation time of this ancestral dish.

Poetry for the ceviche

The first known recipe for “seviche” is found in the book “La Guía de Lima”, written by the Peruvian writer and journalist Manuel Atanasio Fuentes in 1860, which includes it in the “spicy” section.

He writes that “it consists of small pieces of fish, or shrimp that are dipped in sour orange juice, with a lot of chili pepper and salt; they are kept like this for a few hours, until the fish is impregnated with chili pepper, and it is almost cooked by the caustic action of this and the sourness of the orange ”.

Also the Peruvian poetry of that time praised the ceviche. Thus, in 1867, the poet Juan de Arona wrote in one of his works:

“You want my muse to sing /.

at least decant, /.

In a timely espiche, /.

The delicacies of the spicy /.

And from the Peruvian seviche ”.

The enormous importance of this dish in Peruvian gastronomy has motivated multiple varieties that, however, always have in common being based on fresh fish that is “marinated” or “marinated” with the rest of the ingredients.

The fundamental ingredients for a Peruvian ceviche are white fish cut into pieces, lemon juice, julienned red onion, chili, chopped or ground lemon, chopped coriander and salt.

The purists of its preparation insist that the fish should be caught by hook, not by nets, since these tackle spoil the meat of the fish.

To prepare it, the fish and the rest of the ingredients are mixed in a bowl, leaving it to marinate according to the taste of each one.

In some areas, especially in Lima and towards the north of the country, it is usually prepared and served instantly, so that the fish does not overcook with the lemon juice.

And what is the main fish of the ceviche? Well, the most used are red snapper, sea bream, corvina, halibut, tilapia and school, characteristic for their soft meat, with few bones and low in fat, in addition to being typical of the waters of the Pacific.