Our Ceviche here at Hussong’s Las Vegas has been a controversial item on our menu. Some visit our restaurant repeatedly to appreciate the freshness and seeming simplicity of our recipe. Others hate it. We’ve heard people describe it as “the best Ceviche I’ve ever tried”, but we also been told: “This ceviche is crap!”. Often times, such split reviews are caused by taking something that’s known to many in a certain way (let’s call this way the standard) and making it – well, outside of this standard. Since we really haven’t received any middle of the road responses to this traditional Mexican dish, and in all honesty the positive feedback has been equal to the negative (which makes it difficult), we decided to look into the history of ceviche to see if maybe some data check could shed a light on this bi-polar reaction to what is (basically) marinated shrimp (or fish), with sometimes fruits and always veggies.
Ceviche (also spelled cebiche or seviche) is a very popular dish in the coastal regions of the Americas, especially Central and South America. The dish dates back over 2000 years. At this day, ceviche is still loved and as popular as ever from its origins in coastal towns of South America to new locations where the dish is still fresh and considered new. Many things about ceviche can be disputed, such as the exact location of its origin or the exact ingredients to use. There are small to severe differences in the preparation and ingredient line-up of Ceviche based on which part of the world its maker originates from. There is only one unifying concept of Ceviche is (also the only fair contender for an objective judgment criteria) – its freshness.
Ceviche in Central and South America
In Peru, ceviche is traditionally served with corn on the cob or cold sweet potatoes. This ceviche is made with chunks of raw fish marinated in lemon juice, lime juice or bitter orange juice. Chili, sliced onion, salt and pepper are often added and maybe some garlic, chili rocoto or olive oil. This ceviche is marinated for several hours and then served at room temperature. Shark, sole, or sea bass feature in many Peruvian ceviche recipes.
In Panama, it is made with white sea bass and comes in small pastry shells. Other Panama ceviche recipes feature shrimp, squid, or octopus. Ceviche in Panama is made with onion, celery, salt, habanero pepper, and lime juice. The Ecuadorians enjoy their ceviche with thinly sliced plantains or corn nuts and they use tomato sauce and shrimps. Sometimes clams are used in Ecuador to make ceviche, as well as crab, octopus or sea bass.
Chilean ceviche recipes are made with Patagonian toothfish or halibut. Lime and grapefruit juices are used for the marinade and minced chilies and garlic are added too. Cilantro and fresh mint are other popular ingredients. Cuban ceviche is made using mahi mahi, salt, green bell pepper, allspice, habanero pepper, onion, and lime juice. Tuna and squid feature in some Cuban ceviche recipes.
Costa Rican ceviche is spiced with salt, pepper, onions, minced peppers, cilantro and lime juice. It comes with lettuce and soda crackers. Tabasco sauce and ketchup might also be served with it. Corvina, tilapia, marlin, shark, and mahi mahi are popular in Costa Rica. Hawaiian ceviche is made with shrimp, lobster or crab, lime juice, chilies, soy sauce, candlenuts and seaweed.
Ceviche Outside the Americas
Raw fish is cubed and marinated in calamansi juice or vinegar in the Philippines. Onions, garlic, tomato, peppers, and ginger are added for flavor. A lot of people do not know that ceviche is also popular in the Philippines, although the style is different from the Mexican and South American recipes because of the ginger.
Salmon, turbot, halibut, or sea bass are used to make this dish in Spain and lime juice, olive oil, and chilies add the flavor. You can always adjust the amount of chili when making ceviche. Not everyone likes it really spicy.
Two Types of Mexican Ceviche
The idea of raw seafood with an acid is very popular in all high temperature destinations, but like every great dish there are regional spins on the common dish including everything from spices and ingredients used or whether or not to serve the seafood raw or cooked. There are two ways to prepare Mexican style ceviche. The more “mainstream” approach, made with with shrimp, crab, tuna or another kind of fish and chilies, nopales, different types of tropical fruits and fresh veggies marinated in lime juice, garlic.
Or, there is the way that Chef Noe Alcala has grown up eating and making it with his family; the Baja style. Noe got his start in the kitchen early in life; at age 12 he was helping his mother cook authentic Mexican and deserts for private events. At 18 he started cooking professionally and now is the Executive Chef of Hussong’s Cantina Las Vegas. Noe has been familiar with ceviche his whole life, as it is a very popular dish in the South West region of Mexico where he is from. It’s actually very prevalent along the coast lines or anyplace where there is fresh seafood available.
Noe’s ceviche is as authentic as the ceviche you would eat in his hometown of Southwest Mexico; it is, however different from what most Americans know as traditional ceviche. First the raw shrimp is marinated in fresh lime juice right up until the time the appetizer is ordered. The shrimp is then cooked and the onions, cucumber, carrots and fresh cilantro are added. Lastly the ingredient which makes this dish so unique and authentic is added. That ingredient is the special tomato based sauce that is specifically made just for the ceviche. It’s this tomato base sauce that differentiates itself from local competitors who also serve the dish. The idea of using a tomato base stems from the south part of Mexico where as other regions traditionally will just use an acid (lemon or lime juice) with the vegetables and seafood. The combination of these infused coastal South American flavors with the fresh quality ingredients used is Hussongs’ at its best. Whether you’re a tourist or local, young or experienced with a refined pallet the ceviche dish is a definite must try for all.
As the temperatures outside increase, be sure to remember this truly refreshing appetizer while perusing our menu, deciding what to eat. You will not be disappointed, now that you know exactly what to expect – a fresh, balanced, maybe a little unique, home-made like ceviche by Chef Noe. Keep an open mind; pretend you’ve never heard of ceviche before and taste this delicious treat as if you’ve never tasted a combination of ingredients like that before. Probability is, you haven’t.