I love grouper. I love ceviche. Grouper is a great ceviche fish. Peruvian ceviche recipe with grouper is a wonderful thing! This version makes for an easy appetizer or if eating alone it’s substantial enough when made with sweet potatoes to be an entree.
Inspiration for Peruvian Ceviche Recipe
The first time I ever heard of ceviche was during my college days. I was at a local Dallas spot Aw Shucks Oyster Bar in Greenville Avenue. I would become a regular at Aw Shucks but mainly staying in my lane with the gumbo, gulf oysters and a can of Tecate cerveza. I was always impressed by the presentation of this shrimp dish there and finally asked about it. The server called it ceviche, and I was like, what is ceviche? She gave me a sample on a spoon and I was like, give me an order of that!
Back in my college days I was listening to a lot of my fellow St. Mark’s alum Steve Miller or any number of hip hop acts that have sampled his music including EPMD, the Geto Boys, Nas, and Ice Cube. My buddy Luke introduced me to The Steve Miller Band back in middle school. Interestingly the boys in my hood, especially my brother clowned me and threatened to revoke my hood pass for my new tastes in music. But then they recognized many of their favorite hip hop songs were based on cats like Steve Miller and I got a pass.
What is ceviche?
Ceviche (pronounced “seh-VEE-chay”) is a raw seafood recipe common through-out different parts of Latin American. The seafood is diced into small pieces marinated in citrus juice (lime and/or lemon). The acid in the citrus is what actually “cooks” the seafood in a process known as denaturing which causes the proteins to become opaque and produces a firm texture. Not to get all biology scientific, but heat does the same thing to proteins as the citric acid does. After curing the seafood its added with ingredients like cilantro, chiles, and chopped vegetables.
The ceviche method at its core is a method of food preservation born in seafood rich coastal South America. Indigenous people in the region used salt, peppers, and citrus to preserve fish. Peru is believed to be the birthplace. If it ain’t it’s still has reached national dish levels there.
Ceviche vs Poke
Poke is essentially the ceviche of Hawaii. Like ceviche, the seafood is cured without heat. Hawaiians rely on similar preservation methods, but utilize regional ingredients to do so. It’s those curing ingredients that make poke different from ceviche. Hawaii has a huge Asian influence so instead of citrus and chiles, poke relies on Asian flavors like soy and sesame oil and utilizes fish like tuna and salmon.
What is the best fish for ceviche?
Though the citrus marinade drives the cooking, the choice of fish is critical. First and foremost, the fresher the better. Take whatever means necessary to secure fresh fish. I visited Peru and had ceviche at every meal. Peruvians have the benefit of having an abundance of fresh fish. Here in landlocked Austin I have to be a bit more selective and thoughtful not only in getting the freshest, but also the right type of fish to hold up to the citrus marinade. The best fish is firm to semi-firm white fish. You’ll have to figure out which are most available to you but stay with the family of Mali maxi, sea bass, and grouper. I’m a grouper guy as its both firm and meaty. This is good because it’s just firm enough to be broken down by the citrus, but not so much that it falls apart.
How to choose the freshest fish?
- Flesh should look firm and translucent
- If you’re using whole fish, inspect the eyes. They should be bright, shiny and clear. Cloudy or milky eyes = been sitting out a while
- If the skin is still on, it should be shiny, metallic like
- Look at the gills and fins to make sure they’re still bright
- Poke the fish with your finger. Too soft, then avoid.
- Make sure there is no fishy smell. You want ocean fresh so the fish should smell more salty
- Fish flesh should be wet and glossy looking
- White fish should look translucent vs. opaque and very white.
What are the different varieties of ceviche?
When one asks, “what is ceviche” I say it depends. It depends on the region. Local ingredients drive the different variations of ceviche across different parts of Latin America. In Ecuador the vibe is more shrimp as the seafood choice mixed with tomato based marinades. In more Caribbean influenced areas coconut milk shows up. In Mexico tortillas are just as important as a carrier and depending on the area the seafood of choice could be shrimp, fish, or even octopus. I personally am partial to Peruvian which is typically more hearty assuming you get the traditional version which has a wide mix of vegetables. There is nothing like the ceviche you can get locally in Peru. The fresh citrus is great, but it’s really the abundance of different varieties of fresh fish that’s available to them.
What makes this Peruvian ceviche?
Peruvian ceviche is actually more filling and can be eaten as a main dish vs. the more appetizer like of most other regions. Most ceviche recipes are enjoyed with tortilla chips as an appetizer. Peruvian style includes citrus, fish, and peppers like most, but also includes sweet potatoes and corn. The presence of the sweet potatoes and corn combined with a meaty fish like grouper provides more substance and makes the version of ceviche as a main dish.
What are the core ingredients for ceviche?
- Seafood (fish or shellfish)
- Citrus (lime or lemon juice
- Green chili pepper (Jalapeno or Serrano)
- Red onions
- Optional (cucumber, tomatoes, spice seasonings – paprika, chili powder, black pepper, cumin)
How long should the fish marinate?
After deciding on your citrus and picking the freshest fish, the next decision is how long to marinate the fish. Too long and you’re chewing chalky fish, too short and its raw fish you’re eating. Opaque is what you want. If the fish is flaking then its been cooking too long. 15-20 minutes should be enough time.
Can ceviche be made ahead
Most people make ceviche for party appetizers and thus want to make ahead for planning purposes. Ceviche, the best kind is not a make ahead dish. If time is an issue for you, feel free to prep all the other ingredients, i.e chop the onions, peppers, and any other vegetables you’re using.
Ceviche Cooking Tips
- Freshness is key to fish choice followed by firmness.
- Have your fish guy put the fish on ice for transport. Keep it on ice until you prepare the ceviche. Ice helps keep fish fresh and protects the texture and flavor.
- Probably goes without saying but make sure all bones and skin have been removed
- Use a long, very sharp knife to cut the fish
- Marinate the fish completely covered to limit exposure to air which can adversely impact texture
- Don’t combine the fish with the other ingredients until the fish has completed marinating. You want crisp vegetables and fully infused fish and the only way to ensure this happens is by keeping them separate
- 15-20 minutes is best length of time for marinating the fish. Anything longer and the fish begins to become mushy. If you prefer softer, mushy texture then let the fish sit longer.
- Ask your fishmonger for the freshest firm white ocean fish available
Making this Peruvian Ceviche Recipe
If you make this ceviche recipe, come back and leave me a comment below with your feedback. Definitely take a photo of the dish and be sure to tag #foodfidelity so that I can see them.
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- 6 oz white fish fillet (Grouper) cut into 3/4 in cubes
- 2 teaspoons green chile (jalapeno or serrano) seeds, vein removed and diced
- 2 cloves garlic very finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro chopped
- 2 small lemons juiced
- 1 small red onion thinly sliced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 whole sweet potato peeled, boiled and cut into 4 slices
- 1 corncob cooked and kernels removed
- 1 medium avocado diced
- Place the fish in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. After a minute add the garlic and chile. Mix together well.
- Pour lemon juice over the fish. Stir, place in refrigerator covered and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
- Add the cilantro and red onions. Mix well and adjust seasoning for taste.
- Serve with sweet potatoes, corn and avocados.