When you think of Peruvian cuisine, what comes to mind? Perhaps citrusy, succulent slivers of fish, better known as ceviche. This refreshing appetizer (or light meal) is so beloved that it’s the national dish of Peru, and each year on June 28, the country celebrates “Ceviche Day.”
The recipe below comes from acclaimed chef Gastón Acurio, who popularized ceviche and other Peruvian dishes around the world. Instead of using white fish – the traditional choice – this recipe calls for bonito, a blue fish that ranges from Northern Peru to Southern Chile. (The main difference between white and blue fish comes down to fat content, with blue fish containing a higher percentage of healthy fats.) If you’re in Peru, opting for a blue fish like bonito helps diversify the types of fish being consumed, alleviating some of the demand for overfished white fish species. Keep in mind, though, that even bonito can fall prey to overfishing. When possible, seek out sustainable local options.
Even though Acurio created this recipe with blue fish in mind, certain white fish species can also be substituted. For those in North America, consider swapping out bonito for sole, also known as flounder. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guide indicates that butter sole and dover sole are your best bets in terms of sustainability, but it never hurts to check with your local fishmonger to see if another white fish is local, in season, and safe to eat unheated. Even though ceviche is not technically raw, having been partially “cooked” (or denatured) by the acidity of the lime juice, it is best to play it safe by getting fresh fish. Your taste buds will thank you, too.
Classic Bonito Ceviche
Time: 45 minutes
180 g of bonito, tuna, or a local alternative
Leche de tigre, a ceviche marinade (see ingredients below)
1 sour orange (also called bitter or Seville orange)
1 teaspoon of chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon of minced chili pepper (habanero or similar)
½ teaspoon ground garlic
1 teaspoon of ginger juice
1 celery stick finely chopped
Salt to taste
Leche de tigre ingredients:
20-30 g of your preferred fish
Juice of 6 limes
2 tablespoons of fresh yellow chili pepper paste (or 3 raw yellow chili peppers without seeds or veins)
1/4 of red onion
1 celery stick
1/2 chili pepper
3 cilantro sprigs
Salt to taste
Instructions for the leche de tigre:
1. Blend the lime juice with the pieces of fish, onion, celery, and salt.
2. Add the chili pepper and cilantro and blend for a few seconds. This will make the ingredients release their flavor without coloring the mix.
3. Strain the preparation and set aside.
Instructions for the ceviche:
1. Cut the bonito fish into pieces approximately 2.5 cm x 2.5 cm and put them in a bowl.
2. Add salt, garlic, chili pepper, cilantro, chopped celery, and ginger juice. Mix carefully.
3. Add the sour orange and leche de tigre with two ice cubes. Mix.
4. Try the mix and add more lime juice as needed.
5. Julienne the onion and add it to the bowl. Mix once again and remove the ice cubes.
6. Taste and add salt if desired. Serve it with lettuce, corn, sweet potato, corn nuts, and/or banana chips.
Gastón Acurio is an author, TV host, and world-renowned chef with restaurants in 12 countries. Known as “Peru’s gastronomic ambassador,” he is credited with exposing a wider international clientele to Peruvian cuisine. Astrid y Gastón, the Lima-based restaurant that Acurio and his wife Astrid opened in 1994, earned the top spot on the prestigious “Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants” list in 2013. This column appears in the Spring 2021 issue of Oceana Magazine. Read it online here.