Ceviche is the national dish of Peru. Simply fresh seafood “cooked” in citrus juice. In Peru it is generally accompanied with corn and squash (pumpkin). If you are after a light, healthy appetizer, then Peruvian ceviche should be on your radar. And another bonus, it is dead simple to make.
Ceviche is common and very good throughout Central America, particularly Panama, as well as in South America, Chile in particular. But in Peru the bar is raised, it is simply brilliant. You will find it everywhere and you will look forward to it from about mid-afternoon on, along with a Pisco Sour!
Which country do you think has the world’s best cuisine? Thailand? France? They both come to mind. Would you consider Peru in that list? Maybe not, but you might be surprised.
Peruvian Ceviche, a Highlight of the World’s Best Cuisine
Long regarded as the best cuisine on the South American continent, even my Chilean friends admitted that, Peru punches well above its weight on the world scene. Did you know Peru has been voted the world’s best culinary destination three years running from 2012 to 2014? Does that surprise you?
It shouldn’t when you consider that Peru is a country that truly has been at the crossroads of the world for a very long time.
We can all probably guess there is a strong Spanish influence. But prior to the arrival of the Spanish, the Incan empire spread from southern Colombia all the way down to southern Chile and included large parts of modern-day Bolivia and north west Argentina. In addition, there are strong African, Italian, Chinese and Japanese influences. Remember President Fujimori? A Peruvian of Japanese descent, he was the President of Peru for the whole of the 1990’s.
Fusion has therefore been around in Peru far longer than when it became a trendy cuisine term used in the West. And there is no greater example of that than Peruvian ceviche. The Japanese influence is obvious when you think about it. With ample stocks of good seafood and nutritious vegetables it is a supreme combination. And a word or two about Peruvian vegetables and grains.
Not only is Peru famous for its quinoa and potatoes (more than 2000 varieties), but also for its corn (55 varieties of all different colors and shapes). Until we traveled to Peru, the corn we most commonly encounter is a version of what is known as sweet corn, so popular in the US, Australia and other places in the west. But let me tell you something, in the home of corn, they don’t eat sweet corn.
As a Peruvian explained to me. Sweet corn was bred in the west. All of the goodness was removed from the corn and replaced with sugar to make it more popular! There is basically no goodness in sweet corn.
I was a little startled by this claim and I have to say the first time I tasted the ubiquitous choclo corn in Peru, I didn’t really care for it! However, after a month in Peru, I was almost craving it. Savory, not sweet at all, and filling, it is good for you. In Peruvian ceviche it is just fabulous.
Alas it is difficult to find anything else but sweet corn in Australia and the US (apart from the odd farmer’s market maybe). But if you can get your hands on any other type of corn then use it instead of sweet corn for this dish. Who knows you may become a convert to heirloom corn varieties.
Great Peruvian Ceviche to Try in Miraflores (Lima)
If you are fortunate enough to be in Peru or are going there some time in the future and you are including Lima in your itinerary, then you are in for a treat if you wish to try great Peruvian ceviche.
We had a memorable meal in Miraflores, a rather up-market, seaside suburb of Lima at a restaurant called Costazul Seafood.
I cannot speak highly enough of this restaurant. It is a small, family-run affair, certainly not in a flashy building, quite the opposite. The owner, Carlos, will help you select your meal. It is more than just a great place for ceviche, all of the seafood is excellent. Trust me you will have a very pleasant lunch or dinner at this place.
But for those of you at home, you can easily make your own Peruvian ceviche. You just need access to very fresh fish. Our recipe below uses fish fillets, but in Central and South America we also enjoyed shellfish in our ceviche. We have also enjoyed lime juice instead of lemon juice.
Experiment with it, you won’t be disappointed. And while you are waiting for your fish to “cook” in the lemon or lime juice, enjoy the national drink of Peru, the Pisco Sour.