Small Bites

Ceviche

Ceviche is a seafood dish that can be found at different kinds of restaurants across Austin, whether it is a Mexican food restaurant or seafood joint. It can be ordered as an appetizer to share with your table (but honestly, can be filling enough to enjoy as an entire meal on its own). Because it typically involves decadent ingredients like a rarer fish or shrimp, the price at restaurants can be high. For example, at the trendy Suerte in downtown Austin, ceviche can be found at $16 a plate. It can be recreated at home for much cheaper!

People argue the origin of ceviche. It’s served at Mexican restaurants, however it is not native to the country. It’s only been part of the traditional Mexican coastal cuisine for many centuries now. It is believed that the dish originated in the area where present-day Peru is.  The main concept has always remained the same: fish marinated in a type of citrus or fermented beverage.

The dish made its way to other Spanish colonies in the region when Peru allowed the popularity of the dish to spread. Over time, they adapted to local cuisine of whatever area they moved to by incorporating regional flavors and styles.

Ceviche is marinated in a citrus-based mixture, with lemons and limes being the most commonly used. In addition to adding flavor, the citric acid causes the proteins in the seafood to become denatured, appearing to be cooked. As a note, acid marinades will not kill bacteria or parasitic worms, unlike the heat of cooking. Traditional-style ceviche was marinated for about three hours. Modern-style ceviche typically has a very short marinating period. With the appropriate fish, it can marinate in the time it takes to mix the ingredients, serve, and carry the ceviche to the table.

The ceviche we made was marinated for about an hour. It included a heavy mix of lime, cilantro, tomato, jalapeno and onion. The best way to explain the mix is like a “pico de gallo” — a fresh salsa made by chopping and combining these ingredients. The great thing about this mix is the creator can control how spicy it is by adding more chile peppers or by just opting to not include jalapeno peppers at all.

The fish of choice we used is halibut thanks to my boyfriend’s brother who fishes in Alaska — but if you’re not so lucky to have an Alaskan connection (haha) you can use any fish you enjoy from the local supermarket. The recipe can also be made with shrimp.

After the marinating time is up, enjoy by splitting a large bowl with the table or serve up individually in small serving bowls or wine glasses.

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