Growing up, I was always surrounded by Latin American culture. There are a variety of restaurants in the South Florida area that serve a wide array of cuisines, from Colombian to Ecuadorian to Argentinian to Peruvian. Ceviche is a South American dish that I deeply enjoy, given how vibrant and fresh its flavors are. Even the science behind the dish is fascinating, so one can never go wrong with enjoying a mixed seafood ceviche.
Peruvian mixed seafood ceviche is my favorite. Fresh, raw fish is diced into small pieces and cooked in lemon juice, which I have always found so interesting. Paired with cut up octopus and juicy pieces of shrimp, this ceviche almost makes me feel like I am in the ocean when eating it. I immensely appreciate this, given my love for the ocean. The lemon juice not only cooks the fish in ceviche, but it also provides a pleasant acidity that fosters a refreshing culinary experience.
Another component of ceviche that pleases the palette is sliced red onion. In general, raw red onion in any dish provides an awesome kick. In addition to offering ceviche a positively pungent flavor, the red onion slices also diversify the textures of the dish with their crunch and crisp texture. Also, it is undeniable that red onion strikingly cuts through the generally white-colored ceviche with notes of purplish-red. Furthermore, cilantro is an essential ingredient in ceviche. Grassy, bright green cilantro brings an herbaceous flair to ceviche. Essentially, cilantro accentuates the flavor of the lemon juice, the seafood, and the red onion slices.
One should never overlook ceviche’s side dishes, as they are vital elements of the dish as a whole. Firstly, loose pieces of chewy corn called choclo are often served alongside ceviche. Bearing a light yellow color distinct from the mustard tint of corn frequently seen in the United States, pieces of choclo in ceviche absorb the citrus and cut through the dish’s acidity with starchiness. I cannot imagine eating ceviche without choclo, since it helps bring the dish together. Boiled and sliced sweet potato also brings much-needed starchiness to ceviche. Soft and orange in color, the sweet potato slices absorb acidity like choclo, yet they retain their original identity by maintaining a natural sweetness that balances the meal. I cannot emphasize enough how important each of these ingredients are to create the cohesive, unique, and delightful dish of ceviche.
Since moving to Boston, I have not had many opportunities to eat ceviche, which is upsetting to some degree. Sometimes, I am guilty of holding on to how dishes are prepared in specific places from home. For that reason, I abstain from trying them in new places for fear of being disappointed. Now, reflecting on how enjoyable it is to eat fresh ceviche, I realize that it is time for me to broaden my horizons and try places in Boston that serve ceviche.
Whenever I eat ceviche in a Peruvian restaurant with my family, I feel so grateful that its simple ingredients come together in such a powerful way. This power is not, by any means, confined to South Florida. It is time that I recognize food’s ability to transcend certain places. As long as they retain their cultural authenticity, dishes like ceviche can be enjoyed anywhere. With its perfectly cold temperature, ceviche has a way of energizing me and making me feel like I am experiencing summer. I should give myself the chance to feel summertime anywhere I am, even if it is in Boston during the winter. Thank you, South Florida, for being a home base that exposed me to ceviche from a very young age. And thank you, ceviche, for showing me that simplicity in a dish is key and balancing acidity with sweetness is unforgettable when done correctly.
Cover photo courtesy of Cuisine With Me