Having a ceviche in Peru is a ritual akin to having a beer in the U.S. It’s a ritual, something that’s meant to be shared, a social convention understood by all. You will almost never see a Peruvian eating a ceviche alone.
In its preparation, the dish must have a balance of salt and acidity, and it should be piled high on a pool of leche de tigre, or, tiger’s milk. Leche de tigre is the beautiful marriage of fish juice, lime juice, chile and often, garlic and ginger. This is the reason ceviche is always served with a spoon — you want to get as slurp as much of that stuff with each bite as possible.After eating my weight in ceviche in Lima’s epic spots like La Mar, Isolina (where I got a mini lesson on the art) and Picanteria, I had to come home with the secret to the dish.
The answer to is manifold. Firstly, the fish should be as fresh as possible, ideally filleted just before serving. Your mission from there is to prevent the ‘cooking’ that happens when the citric acid hits the flesh of the fish. The way to do that is to first salt the fish liberally, creating a barrier between the lime juice and the flesh, tossing the fish with the leche de tigre the second before serving. Another inside tip was to use a citrus reamer instead of a squeezer to juice the limes. The reamer lets less of oil from the lime peel release into the juice, making it less bitter. Another tip — add a few tablespoons of seafood stock to the leche de tigre to mellow-out the tart marinade. All the easier to take shots of the stuff when the ceviche is good and done.
1 lb firm white fish, flounder or snapper
1 fish head and extra skin (you can ask the fish monger for this, or fillet a whole fish yourself)
1 ½ cup fresh lime juice
1 tbs seafood stock or water
1 Aji limo pepper, seeds and veins removed
1 tsp microplaned fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, microplaned
¼ red onion
1 tsp kosher salt
garnish with clantro
corn nuts or rounds of boiled potato (optional)
1. Fillet the fish and cut into 1″ cubes. Salt liberally.
2. Add the fish head and skins to a bowl with stock, ginger, garlic, chile pepper and lime juice and let it sit for 15 minutes. All the good flavor and liquid from the fish will seep out, producing a milky white liquid.
3. Soak ¼ cup thinly sliced red onion in a small bowl with warm water and large pinch of salt.
3. Strain onions and pat dry. Strain and pour leche de tigre over fish, top with onions and cilantro. Serve immediately with corn nuts or boiled potato on the side.