When it comes to light and fresh Mexican cuisine, no dish can compare to classic ceviche. Adored as both a main dish and an appetizer, ceviche is not only one of the most popular dishes in Mexican cuisine, but one of the most beloved ways to enjoy raw fish. Simple, straight forward, yet filled with flavor, ceviche is one dish that can be tweaked and altered from chef-to-chef but almost always comes out fresh and flavorful.
While there is some debate on where ceviche originally comes from, most people believe it first originated in Peru until eventually making its way north. Others believe that it came from Ecuador and while each country prefers their own “style” of ceviche, they are actually quite similar.
Today, you will find it in most Mexican establishments as a great way to start a meal, especially in the warmer months when diners crave something light and citrusy.
So, What Exactly is Ceviche?
If you have never dived into this fun and flavorful dish, you may not even know what to expect when placing a ceviche order. While it can vary from place to place, at its core, ceviche is slices or chunks of raw wish tossed in an acidic marinade, typically some type of citrus juice, typically orange or lime.
The season, the location of the establishment and the chef will all impact what type of fish is used, and at times, you can find tilapia, shellfish, shrimp or calamari in the mix. Squid and scallops are also popular options, however the key is really in the freshness of the fish.
However, it is the citrus marinade that really works its magic when it comes to ceviche.
This is because once the fish has really sat in the marinade, over time it will start to develop an opaque look. The fish will become more firm and almost look like it is cooked. This is because the acid from the citrus juice actually breaks down the proteins in the fish.
When enjoying ceviche, you should expect the exterior of the fish to be firm. Once you take a bite though, you will instantly start to taste the tart, refreshing citrus flavor from the marinade. Most ceviche dishes are also served with diced or thinly slices peppers, chiles, herbs or red onion for a little extra flavor.
Some Tex-Mex establishments will even add fresh avocados to the top of their ceviche for a fun surprise. Either way, expect to enjoy this fish cold or room temperature and get ready to dig in to a truly unique treat.
How to Enjoy Ceviche
Now that you know what ceviche is, it is just as important to know how to enjoy it. Most restaurants will serve ceviche as an appetizer because it is great for sharing. You can simply eat ceviche on its own out of its serving dish, but more people will ultimately enjoy it more as a dip, although some ceviche-purists may argue that this takes away from the flavor of the fish and the marinade. Since most chefs really take the time to find only the freshest fish for their ceviche, many prefer that you don’t take away from the flavor of the fish.
You may also find establishments that serve ceviche as part of a main dish, or as a pre-entrée salad. Since it is so light, however, it is typically considered more of a starter than a full meal. Just make sure no matter how you enjoy it to get plenty of the fresh juice marinade that comes with the ceviche as it is typically full of flavor.
While some will say that there is no better way to enjoy fresh ceviche than outside near the sandy shores of Mexico on a hot summer day, this is one light and refreshing dish that is perfect all year round, no matter where you may be enjoying it. Share it with a group, or treat yourself with a fresh serving of ceviche paired with an authentic Mexican margarita, and you can truly indulge in one of the most unique dishes that Mexican cuisine has to offer.