Ceviche (Spanish pronunciation: [seˈβitʃe]; also spelled cebiche, or seviche) is a seafood dish popular in the coastal regions of the Americas, especially Central and South America. The dish is typically made from fresh raw fish marinated in citrus juices, such as lemon or lime, and spiced with ají or chili peppers. Additional seasonings, such as chopped onions, salt, and coriander, may also be added. Ceviche is usually accompanied by side dishes that complement its flavors, such as sweet potato, lettuce, corn, avocado or plantain. As the dish is not cooked with heat, it must be prepared fresh to minimize the risk of food poisoning. It may be safer to prepare it with frozen or blast-frozen fish due to Anisakis parasites.
The origin of ceviche is disputed. Possible origin sites for the dish include the western coast of north-central South America, or in Central America. The invention of the dish is also attributed to other coastal societies, such as the Polynesian islands of the south Pacific. The Spanish, who brought from Europe citrus fruits, such as lime, could have also originated the dish with roots in Moorish cuisine. However, the most likely origin lies in the area of present-day Peru.
Along with an archaeological record suggesting the consumption of a food similar to ceviche nearly 2,000 years ago, historians believe the predecessor to the dish was brought to Peru by Moorish women from Granada, who accompanied the Spanish conquistadors and colonizers, and this dish eventually evolved into what now is considered ceviche. Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio further explains the dominant position that Lima held through four centuries as the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru allowed for popular plates such as ceviche to be brought to other Spanish colonies in the region, and in time they became a part of local cuisine by incorporating regional flavors and styles.
Ceviche is nowadays a popular international dish prepared in a variety of ways throughout the Americas, reaching the United States in the 1980s. The greatest variety of ceviches are found in Peru; but other distinctly unique styles can also be found in coastal Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, the United States, Mexico, Panama, the Caribbean, and several other nations.
The origin of the name of the dish is also disputed. One hypothesis suggests the common Spanish word for the dish, cebiche, has its origin in the Latin word cibus, which translates to English as "food for men and animals." Another hypothesis, supported by the Royal Spanish Academy, is the name might derive from the Spanish-Arabic word assukkabáǧ, which itself derives from the Arabic word sakbāj (سكباج meaning: meat cooked in vinegar). Further hypotheses base the origin of the term on escabeche, Spanish for pickle, or it is simply a variation of the word siwichi, the traditional Quechua name for the dish.
The name of the dish may be spelled variously as cebiche, ceviche, or seviche based on location; all three spelling variations are accepted by the Royal Spanish Academy, the official institution responsible for regulating the Spanish language. Despite this, other local terms, such as cerbiche and serviche, are still used as variations to name the dish.
In regard to its origin, various explanations are given. According to some historic sources from Peru, ceviche would have originated among the Moche, a coastal civilization that began to flourish in the area of current-day northern Peru nearly 2000 years ago. The Moche apparently used the fermented juice from the local banana passionfruit. Recent investigations further show, during the Inca Empire, fish were marinated with the use of chicha, an Andean fermented beverage. Different chronicles also report, along the Peruvian coast prior to the arrival of Europeans, fish was consumed with salt and ají. Furthermore, this theory proposes the natives simply switched to the citrus fruits brought by the Spanish colonists, but the main concepts of the plate remain essentially the same.
The invention of the dish is also attributed to places ranging from Central America to the Polynesian islands in the South Pacific. In Ecuador, it could have also had its origins with its coastal civilizations, as both Peru and Ecuador have shared cultural heritages (such as the Inca empire) and a large variety of fish and shellfish. Ceviche is not native to Mexico, despite the fact that the dish has been a part of traditional Mexican coastal cuisine for centuries. The Spanish, who brought from Europe citrus fruits such as lime, could have originated the dish in Spain with roots in Moorish cuisine.
Nevertheless, most historians agree ceviche originated during colonial times in the area of present-day Peru. They propose the predecessor to the dish was brought to Peru by Moorish women from Granada who accompanied the Spaniards, and this dish eventually evolved into what nowadays is considered ceviche. Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio further explains the dominant position that Lima held through four centuries as the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru allowed for popular dishes such as ceviche to be brought to other Spanish colonies in the region, and in time they became a part of local cuisine by incorporating regional flavors and styles. Other notable chefs who support the Peruvian origin of the plate include Chilean Christopher Carpentier and Spaniard Ferran Adrià, who in an interview stated, "Cebiche was born in Peru, and so the authentic and genuine [cebiche] is Peruvian."
Preparation and variants
Ceviche is marinated in a citrus-based mixture, with lemons and limes being the most commonly used. In addition to adding flavor, the citric acid causes the proteins in the seafood to become denatured, appearing to be cooked. (However, acid marinades will not kill bacteria or parasitic worms, unlike the heat of cooking.) Traditional-style ceviche was marinated for about three hours. Modern-style ceviche, popularized in the 1970s, usually has a very short marinating period. With the appropriate fish, it can marinate in the time it takes to mix the ingredients, serve, and carry the ceviche to the table.
Most Latin American countries have given ceviche its own touch of individuality by adding their own particular garnishes.
In Peru, ceviche has been declared to be part of Peru's "national heritage" and has even had a holiday declared in its honor. The classic Peruvian ceviche is composed of chunks of raw fish, marinated in freshly squeezed key lime or bitter orange (naranja agria) juice, with sliced onions, chili peppers, salt and pepper. Corvina or cebo (sea bass) was the fish traditionally used. The mixture was traditionally marinated for several hours and served at room temperature, with chunks of corn-on-the-cob, and slices of cooked sweet potato. Regional or contemporary variations include garlic, fish bone broth, minced Peruvian ají limo, or the Andean chili rocoto, toasted corn or cancha and yuyo (seaweed). A specialty of Trujillo is ceviche prepared from shark (tollo or tojo). Lenguado (sole) is often used in Lima. The modern version of Peruvian ceviche, which is similar to the method used in making Japanese sashimi, consists of fish marinated for a few minutes and served promptly. It was developed in the 1970s by Peruvian-Japanese chefs including Dario Matsufuji and Humberto Sato. Many Peruvian cevicherías serve a small glass of the marinade (as an appetizer) along with the fish, which is called leche de tigre or leche de pantera.
In Ecuador, it is spelled as cebiche. The shrimp ceviche is sometimes made with tomato sauce for a tangy taste. The Manabí style, made with lime juice, salt and the juice provided by the cooked shrimp itself is very popular. Occasionally, ceviche is made with various types of local shellfish, such as black clam (cooked or raw), oysters (cooked or raw), spondylus (raw), barnacles (cooked percebes), among others mostly cooked. It is served in a bowl with toasted corn kernels as a side dish (fried green plantain chunks called "patacones", thinly sliced plantain chips called chifle, and popcorn are also typical ceviche side dishes). Well cooked Sea bass (corvina), octopus, and crab ceviches are also common in Ecuador. In all ceviches, lime juice and salt are ubiquitous ingredients.
In Chile, ceviche is often made with fillets of halibut or Patagonian toothfish, and marinated in lime and grapefruit juices, as well as finely minced garlic and red chili peppers and often fresh mint and cilantro are added.
Central America and the Caribbean
In Mexico and Central America, it is served in cocktail cups with tostadas, or as a tostada topping and taco filling. Shrimp, octopus, squid, tuna, and mackerel are popular bases for Mexican ceviche. The marinade ingredients include salt, lime, onion, chili peppers, avocado, and coriander leaves (known as cilantro in the Americas). Tomatoes are often added to the preparation. According to the book "Mexico One Plate At A Time," even though the dish has been a part of traditional Mexican coastal cuisine for centuries, ceviche is not a dish native to Mexico. Despite this, Mexican ceviche has developed its own distinct styles that make it unique from other available variations .
In El Salvador the ceviche tradition is very strong. One of the most exotic ceviche recipes is "Ceviche de Concha Negra,", known in Mexico as Pata de Mula, or "The Black Clam." It is dark, nearly black, with a distinct look and flavor. It is prepared with lime juice, onion, yerba buena, salt, pepper, tomato, Worcester sauce, and sometimes picante (any kind of hot sauce or any kind of hot pepper) as desired.
In Costa Rica, the dish includes marinated fish, lime juice, salt, ground black pepper, finely minced onions, cilantro and finely minced peppers. It is usually served in a cocktail glass with a lettuce leaf and soda crackers on the side, as in Mexico. Popular condiments are tomato ketchup and tabasco sauce. The fish is typically tilapia or corvina, although mahi-mahi, shark and marlin are also popular.
In Panama, ceviche is prepared with lemon juice, chopped onion, celery, habanero pepper, and sea salt. Ceviche de corvina (white sea bass) is very popular and is served as an appetizer in most local restaurants. It is also commonly prepared with octopus, shrimp, and squid, or served with little pastry shells called "canastitas."
In Cuba, ceviche is often made using mahi-mahi prepared with lime juice, salt, onion, green pepper, habanero pepper, and a touch of allspice. Squid and tuna are also popular. In Puerto Rico and other places in the Caribbean, the dish is prepared with coconut milk. In The Bahamas and south Florida, a conch ceviche known as 'conch salad' is very popular. It is prepared by marinating diced fresh conch in lime with chopped onions, celery, and bell pepper. Diced pequin pepper and/or scotch bonnet pepper is often added for spice. In south Florida, it is common to encounter a variation to which tomato juice has been added.
Aside from contaminants, raw seafood can also be the vector for various pathogens, viral, bacterial, as well as larger parasitic creatures.
According to the 2009 Food Code published by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), specific microbial hazards in ceviche
include: Anisakis simplex, Diphyllobothrium spp., Pseudoterranova decipiens, and Vibrio parahaemolyticus. Anisakiasis is a zoonotic disease caused by the ingestion of larval nematodes in raw seafood dishes such as ceviche.
The Latin American cholera outbreaks in the 1990s have been attributed to the consumption of raw cholera-infested seafood that was eaten as ceviche. Other studies concluded that the lack of sanitary food supply conditions, including "unwashed fruit and vegetables, contaminated food and ice from street vendors, contaminated drinking water, and contaminated crab meat transported in luggage" caused the epidemic.
The American Dietetic Association urges women to avoid ceviche during pregnancy.
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