Ceviche (pronounced say-bee-chay) is a dish that is typically found in Latin America. It has as many claimants to its origins as there are recipes. Considering that each family seems to have their own recipe, it is a very widespread dish. Typically ceviche consists of seafood, with fruits/vegetables, and spices. There are also versions that feature such ingredients as plantains and guineos as the star.
Notice how I have not mentioned any form of cooking. This dish is essentially raw. Acid, usually a citrus of some sort, is used to denature the proteins in the fish as well as to break down the vegetables somewhat. Denaturation is when proteins are unfolded. When we cook our food using heat, we also denature the proteins, but there are much less pathogens to worry about.
That said, when making ceviche only use fresh fish. It is recommended that one use only the freshest fish possible when preparing this dish. Although getting sick from eating raw fish is uncommon, it is still possible with fish that has sat out. When selecting fish you want firm flesh. Marine fish are said to carry less disease. In order to get the freshest, I recommend talking to the fish monger directly.
The following pages contain the list of ingredients and the steps to create my Ceviche de Tiquicia. It should be enough for at least 4 people.
Step 1: Collect the Ingredients and Utensils
1 lb fresh firm white-fleshed fish (Tilapia is the exception here)
1/2 roll of cilantro (40 or so sprigs; leaves and stems).
1 medium onion
1 medium tomato
1 sweet/hot pepper (I like to use bell)
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced finely (optional)
16 or so persian limes (the limon criollo is best, but the ripe key lime is hard to find. You only need enough to cover)
2 small stalks of celery (No leaves are needed)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup water
1/2 to 1 cup ginger ale (I like Canada Dry brand)
A non-reactive bowl
Step 2: General Tips
Juice a good portion of your limes prior to starting.
Ceviche is what one makes of it. If I want to put hot sauce in it, then that is my decision. Not being safe is not an option though.
Vegetables should always be washed beforehand.
Do try using other types of fish and vegetables. Maybe some fruit. Just make sure it is all fresh.
Now onto the real thing.
Step 3: Chopping the Vegetables
The next layer will be tomato which needs to have its seeds removed. A firm tomato works best because an old one will not tolerate the cold of the fridge nor the acid well. This layer is pictured in the 3rd picture. After this layer comes the pepper, this presents two choices in this recipe. One can either use a hot pepper or a sweet one (one can have both if they want though).
Costa Ricans typically shy away from overly spicy food, their food is generally mild and almost bland so a sweet pepper like the red bell is more common. With a sweet pepper, centimeter squared pieces are good , but with a hot one, it is best to cut it up as tiny as possibly to better distribute the heat and flavor. I only had a jalapeño at the time of making this dish so I used that instead of the sweet bell I like so much. You can see below how it is again layered in picture 7.
We are going to change gears here and swap over to the fish. I will be using tilapia for this instructable, but corvina or chilean sea bass is my top choice.
Step 4: Cutting Fish Into Cubes
I am working with tilapia in these pictures. My host family taught me to go against the grain when making initial cuts in the fish. This allows the pieces to stay together better. The process is shown below in the photos, but basically make vertical cuts against the grain to the width of your choosing. I aim for about a centimeter squared although sizes up to an inch are not uncommon. After vertical cuts are made, then horizontal ones are made to get the cube shape. Any pieces not to one's liking can be further trimmed. I know the center of the filet tends to annoy me.
Thickness in fish decides how long it will take to denature in the acid. Smaller pieces cook faster. For my recipe we want fish that is opaque or almost opaque. It will look like it was cooked with heat.
After chopping up the fish as shown in the pictures, it is time to add the cilantro.
Step 5: Cilantro and Other Spices
The cilantro and garlic should be minced as fine as possible and then tossed on top of the fish. The salt and pepper can be added on top too. The layers do not really matter too much unless attempting to soften the vegetables first. After adding cilantro one can then add all or the rest of the lime juice.
Step 6: Lime, Ginger Ale, and Other Things
After tasting the liquid one can add more or less ginger ale or even water if they so wish it. The water I listed in the ingredients was a requirement for my host family. I think it was added to counteract the salt. Depending on how my limes are, I may skip the water altogether or end up using as much as two cups.
If one wishes to avoid the ginger ale and water, they may skip it. For the sake of tiquicia or Costa Rica, I strongly recommend giving the ginger ale a chance.
Step 7: The Wait
Step 8: Enjoying Ceviche
I realize making a pound or more of this is crazy, but that's why we enjoyed it as a family. Do invite others to share in your cultural experience. The shelf life on this dish is about 30 hours or so in the fridge. The ingredients are continually broken down during this time however, so near the end it will be mush. The flavors tend to be strongest the day after. I do enjoy ceviche made at night in the early morning.
Thank you for reading my ceviche instructable and helping me relive a bit of my time in Costa Rica.