Bordering the ocean, one cannot talk about the food of Peru without mentioning the seafood. In a similar vein, one cannot mention the seafood with talking about ceviche (sometimes spelled cebiche in the country – I don’t know if this is on purpose or a misspelling, as the v and b are the same sound in Spanish).
Ceviche is the crown jewel of the Peruvian coast. It can be made with almost any type of seafood. The strange/interesting/delightful part is how it is made. It’s prepared with a spicy solution made with lots of lime juice. The lime juice reacts with fish to make it edible and not raw anymore. Whatever it does, it’s good. It’s important to note that this solution only works with fish. If you’re making clam (on the left) or shrimp ceviche, you have to cook them beforehand – lime juice doesn’t cut it.
Regions have their own variations – while most places include onion, you often get ceviche with a little bit of seaweed up in the Trujillo area. Suffice to say, you can’t come to Peru and not try this. They even have ceviche stands out in the street – you can choose what you want, they toss in a cup, instant ceviche goodness!
Now, this isn’t to say that that’s it for seafood in Peru. There are a few other terrific seafood dishes definitely worth at least a mention. To start off with a regional delicacy, we had been told that the crab in the Trujillo region in the north was particularly great, and it was. We sample cangrejo reventado (burst crab) by the ocean at a nice eatery one night, also being treated to a delicious mint lemonade (which you can see in the picture). The crab was terrific, lots of crab meat in addition to the meat it was bursting with. One plateful was definitely enough for the both of us.
Chupe means, I believe, some kind of soup or stew. At least, chupe de langostinas delivers a soupy stew of shrimp. It is wonderfully delicious, and to be quite honest, I didn’t want to let Christine have a taste. At all. It was that good. I don’t know what went into it, but I sure wish I did. One of my favourite seafood dishes, as a matter of fact.
Lastly, seafood can also just feature in dishes up here. This last piece is tacu-tacu, an Afro-Peruvian way of preparing rice. As you can see, it is garnished/covered with all the seafood found in the area – shrimp, scallops, clams, squid, octopus. Yum. The tacu-tacu itself is kind of buried under all of that delectable seafood.
Seafood is celebrated in many ways in this country, especially along the coast. I made it a point to try and eat something from the ocean at least once a day, as we were heading up into the mountains and away from the coast again soon. Don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…
Here’s a recipe for ceviche from Cocinando con Carmen, the booklet sold by SAE Cuzco.
2 kg white fish
1 garlic bulb
MSG (monosodium glutamate)
1 small can of evaporated milk
1 stick of celery
1 ginger root
1 head of lettuce
1/4 kg of corn (this is a special, large-kernel corn found in Peru that is toasted for the side)
1/2 kg sweet potato
salt & cumin
1. Clean the fish and remove all the bones, the head, and the scales and cut into small cubes. Juice the lines into a bowl. Peel the garlic and wash the celery.
2. Put garlic, celery, and ginger into a blender for 3 minutes. Stop, add a few drops of water, then blend for 2 minutes more.
3. Boil the sweet potatoes for 45 minutes
4. Toast the corn kernels in oil in a covered pan, stirring constantly for 10 to 12 minutes.
5. Wash the lettuce and put into a bowl.
6. Chop the onion into strips and wash them 5 times in cold water.
7. Put the fish into a container with the lime juice. Put the blended ingredients through a sieve and add the liquid to the container. Marinate for 10-15 minutes, adding salt, cumin, and MSG to taste.
8. Pour one quarter of the milk into the container.
9. Peel and slice the sweet potato, add it to the container, and serve. Makes 8 portions.