An introduction to ceviche

I was recently made aware of the unsettling fact there are people who are not familiar with ceviche. As this is easily my favorite dish while traveling both home and abroad, this disturbs me so much I immediately find it necessary to share its flavors with the world.

In the midst of a roadtrip across the state of Oregon, a fellow hiker on a Crater Lake trail inquired about the Spanish phrase etched across the front of my turquoise tank top: Mancora, PeruEl mismo Caribe pero con ceviche“. I informed him that I had picked it up in the Peruvian town of Mancora and that it proclaimed the town to be “the same as the Caribbean but with ceviche“.

That’s when it happened.

“What’s ceviche?”

If you, too, find yourself agreeing with this question, do yourself a favor and put this dish on your culinary radar and search out the nearest available ceviche outlet immediately, even if that place is Baja, Mexico.A native dish of Central and South America, the simple, citrus infused masterpiece traces its roots to coastal Peru. A dish comprised of raw fish which is freshly prepared, the cubed meat is then marinated in lemon or lime juice and served with an assortment of onions and spicy chili peppers. Like any good regional cuisine, the exact recipe will vary from place to place, such as the Peruvian ceviche being drastically different than the ceviche found in Ecuador or Mexico where it’s garnished with a spice the Peruvians call aji.

Frequently served with a side of sweet potato or peanuts, those who are concerned about the idea of eating raw fish can find comfort in the fact that the citrus in the marinade actually serves to naturally cook the fish. The result of the spice, citrus, and freshly caught fish creates an oral explosion that will send you running back to a coastal town whenever given the chance. Some things in life are possible to have too much of, and ceviche will never be one of them.

Not to be relegated to Latin America, various forms of ceviche can also be found in places such as French Polynesia where the fish is instead marinated in fresh coconut milk and served with carrots and red onions. The Tahitians call this poisson cru. In Hawaii, locals have been known to doctor the fresh ahi tuna caught in the offshore waters and prepare it with anything from soy sauce to sea salt to seaweed. Known as ahi poke, the dish is starting to creep its way onto appetizer menus along the west coast of the U.S. and beyond.

Having grown up in the middle of the Pacific ocean (Hawaii) and a frequent visitor of Latin America, ceviche and its various forms have forever been one of my culinary staples. Understandably harder to acquire in places such as central Oregon, where I currently find myself singing the praises of raw fish, I nonetheless felt it was my social responsibility to introduce this dish to the greater traveling world.

If this introduction turns one person on to what is easily my favorite dish on the planet, I can consider this to have been a noble cause.