Ceviche may seem simple but there is 2000 years of history behind it.

by LeAnn Nguyen
August 19, 2018

In a diverse food town like Seattle, ceviche is certainly no stranger. It does seem to stand out a bit in the Latin cuisine lineup, which is more commonly associated with hearty, dense, and savory suspects like grilled meats, beans, rice, and fried everything. Ceviche, on the other hand, is bright and refreshing like a cool breeze on a summer day, perking up taste buds rather than smothering them in deliciousness.

What’s surprising about ceviche is just how ancient the recipe is. Its origins stretch back to nearly 2000 years ago, but the exact details of its conception still remain hotly debated today. Historical sources suggest that dishes resembling ceviche was consumed as early as in the ancient Andean civilizations of the Mochican and Incan Empires, around the area of what is today known as Peru. Taking their claim of this fact, Peru has made ceviche its national dish!

In these cultures, fish were fermented in the juices of local fruits or grains. When Spanish colonizers arrived in the 1500s, they brought with them citrus fruits along with Moorish slave cooks who had been marinating fish and meats in the fruits’ acidic juice. Through some intermingling of these previous fermented dishes, ceviche was born. It quickly spread throughout the reaches of the Spanish empire in Latin America. The citrus curing method of cooking can now be found in many other cuisines.

The main ingredient in ceviche is of course the seafood. Ceviche can be made with pretty much any kind of ocean seafood. Some popular fish used include halibut, tilapia, and seabass, but you can also use shrimp and shellfish. More important than the type of fish/shellfish is its freshness. As with any raw seafood, the fresher it is the better. The fileted or chopped seafood is marinated in a citrus mixture typically including lemons and limes, but regional variations include others like grapefruit and bitter orange. Seasonings such as chili peppers and picante sauce are also commonly used to perk things up.

Additional condiments and toppings are numerous but are mostly vegetables and fruits, keeping the dish nice and light. Some popular ones are bell pepper, tomato, mango, avocado, onion, and cilantro – it all comes down to regional and personal taste. The marination time is also variable. Traditionally, ceviche is soaked in its marinade for a few hours, but certain fishes can also be marinated for very short periods of time. If you’re running late for your dinner party, you can even prepare your ceviche in a few minutes before serving.

Or..you can always go to one of the many Seattle restaurants offering this dish. Here are a few suggestions: San Fernando Roasted Chicken specializes in Peruvian food so you know they are serious about their ceviche. You can also get ceviche the taco truck Tacos El Asadero. Baja Bistro has one on their menu and so does El Quetzal, both on Beacon Hill.