My husband and I both enjoy cooking. We like sampling and discovering new and different foods from all areas of the world.
As a child growing up and watching my mother make nearly all of our meals from scratch, both of my brothers and I developed a fondness for cooking and baking. As soon as we were tall enough, my mother let each of us help her in safe ways for a child to master. As we matured, we could each do more to get the many different meals on our kitchen table, where the five of us gathered to dine. Our dining room table was a place for special occasions. Our kitchen was the place of action and fond memory-making.
At dinner each night, it was a time to talk about what we had experienced each day. One subject almost always mentioned was food. Once or twice each week, my mother made the homemade bread we consumed during the week. If the garden was producing, canning projects became the topic of discussion. The magnificent scents coming from her kitchen were mouthwatering.
My husband also loves to cook, and one of our pastimes is watching the food network on television. Together, we are always trying new recipes, and we love to entertain.
When a good friend of ours told us about his upcoming fishing trip to Alaska, we were excited for him. We got even more excited to hear that he would be sharing some of the fresh-caught fish with us if he was successful. When his wife shared a smiling photo of him holding a 48-inch halibut via a text message, we began to dream of the many preparations we might be making, and ceviche came to mind. Our friend was fishing south of Juneau in the area around Glacier Bay. I have his permission to use this photo of him holding this picture-worthy whopper of a catch.
What Is Ceviche?
Ceviche (pronounced “seh-vee-chay”) is a dish consisting of fresh seafood that is generally raw or lightly blanched or parboiled. The quick curing of the fish occurs using citrus juices, most often lime or lemon. There are various seasonings and items such as peppers, onions, and salt that flavor the dish. Accompaniments vary.
People from different parts of the world put their own spin on how to prepare and serve ceviche. Numerous recipes for this dish are easy to find online.
Most people credit the origin of ceviche to Peru, where it is honored as a national dish. Spellings of the word ceviche also include the following: sebiche, seviche, and cebiche.
Is Ceviche Safe to Eat?
On the occasions my husband and I have eaten ceviche in restaurants, I am sure that it was properly handled and prepared. Chefs would use fish caught that same day, and the locales where we had eaten this delicious dish were all adjacent to sea waters where delivery of the fresh-caught fish took place daily. One example I recall was on the island of Majorca off the coast of Spain, where we enjoyed beautifully served chilled glass filled with delicious ceviche.
In the case of vessels going out to deep-sea fish for many days in a row, the fish is typically quickly frozen at -31 degrees Fahrenheit and kept in cold storage at that temperature for a minimum of 15 hours. Alternately after being quickly frozen at that or even lower temperatures, it is then stored at -4 degrees for a minimum of seven days. The majority of the fish for sale in supermarkets today coming from those ships are previously frozen. This information is good to know for the following reason.
By flash freezing the seafood and holding it in prescribed cold temperatures for those minimum time requirements, any bacteria or parasites are killed and no longer present a threat to health. The supermarkets then thaw the fish and keep it on ice for purchase and use however we wish. Thus, the risk of becoming infected with pathogens is not a significant threat if we handle the seafood with caution on our end.
Should Pregnant Women Eat Ceviche?
Women who are pregnant, or other immunocompromised individuals, should always avoid eating any uncooked proteins. This includes undercooked or raw meats as well as seafood. The risk to your or your baby’s health is not worth it.
Larger fish like tuna and swordfish, among others, can accumulate significant levels of mercury that can affect the health of all individuals if consumed daily. It is best to limit one’s intake of those fish to once, or not more than twice a week, even if cooked.
So for all the ladies who are pregnant, or considering getting pregnant, skip the ceviche for now. Your health and that of your baby are the most important considerations at this time.
How to Make Ceviche
Here is a recipe that I recently made, and my husband and I enjoyed it immensely. The poaching liquid was simple. It was two quarts of water and a quarter cup of kosher salt.
Read More From Delishably
We almost always keep a package of frozen shrimp in our freezer, so it was easy to whip up this summertime taste treat using shrimp for the ceviche. As soon as the avocado had ripened sufficiently, we were ready to go! The rest of the ingredients we already had on hand.
- 2 quarts water
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1 pound of shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 cup celery, finely sliced
- ¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
- 1 large jalapeño, seeded and finely minced
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 2 oranges, juiced
- 2 limes, juiced
- 1 cup tomato, seeded and finely diced
- 1 large avocado, chopped into ½-inch pieces
- Fresh cilantro, to taste
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper, to taste
- Hot sauce, optional
- In a pot, bring 2 quarts water and a quarter cup of kosher salt to a boil. Add the shrimp, cover, and turn off the heat. After 3 minutes, remove the shrimp. When cool enough to handle, cut the shrimp into 1/2-inch slices.
- In a glass or stainless steel bowl, add the sliced shrimp, sliced celery, finely chopped red onion, minced jalapeño, plus lemon, orange, and lime juice. Refrigerate this mixture for 40 minutes.
- Add the tomato, avocado, cilantro, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Let this mixture stand at room temperature for 25 to 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
- Serve and garnish with some hot sauce, if desired, and your choice of accompaniments such as tortilla chips.
What Fish Is Best for Ceviche?
Considering all of the fish and other sea creatures in the oceans, I am sure that many of them have, at one time or another, been of use in the making of ceviche. However, the majority of people seem to agree that fish like halibut, mahi-mahi, seabass, snapper, grouper, flounder, tilapia, and other saltwater white fish are the best to use.
As you can see from the recipe above, I used shrimp. Squid, octopus, scallops, and more, can be put to use in place of white fish. Once you read a few recipes, let your imagination soar, and feel free to create your recipe to suit your taste or ingredients that are readily available.
Some chefs and home cooks pre-cook the seafood for ceviche before the marinating process takes place. If considering safety factors, this is the safest way to eat ceviche. I like the idea of using cooked shrimp and used recipe inspiration from Emeril Lagasse and Martha Stewart regarding the cooking of the shrimp.
Their recipe uses the juice of lemons, limes, and oranges. It calls for serrano chilis, among other ingredients. However, because my husband does not like eating cucumber, I made several substitutions, as you can see in the written recipe above. You can read their entire recipe in the links at the bottom of this page if you wish to see all the differences.
Does Lime Juice Really “Cook” the Fish?
Acidic juices such as lime, lemon, grapefruit, orange, or bitter orange, when combined with raw proteins like fish, change the consistency and color of the fish. After some contact with the acid, the fish changes in appearance and looks cooked. The scientific word for this is denaturation. Heating and cooking foods also denature the product. It is a chemical reaction that takes place.
Just as a cooked egg white turns from a liquidy and translucent color to a firm consistency and white coloration, fish will also become more opaque and more firm when combined with acidic juices.
How Long Should Ceviche Be Marinated?
Concerning making ceviche, opinions vary as to how long the citrus juices should marinate (or "cook") the seafood. Some recipes suggest a few minutes, while others suggest several hours. A medium rule of thumb is around 15 minutes. As with the ingredients, you will learn what tastes best to you by experimenting with the timing of the acidic marinade. If the seafood becomes too crumbly or rubbery, you will know to marinate it with less contact of the acidic juices the next time you make ceviche.
Does Lime Juice Kill Bacteria in Ceviche?
Some people assume that lime juice, as an example, will kill bacteria in the marination process of making ceviche. While it may kill some bacteria, it is safer to assume that not all will be eliminated, as in other cooking methods. The same is true for parasites when eating raw fish.
The only sure way of knowing that all pathogens are no longer viable is to eat fully cooked seafood or seafood that is flash-frozen and stored at those subzero temperatures aboard the deep seafaring vessels before being sold in our grocery stores.
What to Serve With Ceviche?
We like eating ceviche with a few tortilla chips or even with no other accompaniments other than a glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc or a glass of good rose wine. Others choose to serve ceviche piled on top of saltine crackers, tostadas, plantain chips, or thin slices of toasted bread. Drinks in addition to wine include sparkling water, iced tea, beer, or a libation of your choice. Let your taste preferences be your guide.
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States: Freezing and Refrigerated Storage in Fisheries - Freezing at Sea
- SeafoodHealthFacts.org: Seafood and Parasites
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Selecting and Serving Fresh and Frozen Seafood Safely
- EcuadorAbroad: Is Ceviche Safe
- WebMD: Is It Safe to Eat Ceviche While Pregnant?
- EatingWell: Shrimp Ceviche Recipe
- SmartKitchen: Denaturation
- WebMD: Mercury in Fish
© 2021 Peggy Woods