There’s nothing more I want right now than to be sitting seaside, basking in the sun and enjoying some fresh seafood. Though the current state of the world has put any wish of travel on hold, leaving me confined to my parent’s humble suburban Virginia abode. But there’s no reason I can’t bring the flavors of fresh seafood home. The best (and easiest!) way I’ve resolved to do so is by preparing some plates of ceviche and aguachile.
Ceviche and aguachile have a lot in common, both in ingredients and preparation. At its simplest, ceviche is made with slices or chunks of fish (and often shellfish) mixed with an acidic marinade, which includes some sort of citrus juice. The citrus gives the fish an opaque appearance and firm texture as if it were cooked, while still maintaining a tender and translucent center. Aguachile, also known as Mexican ceviche, is similarly made with raw shrimp or other types of fish that are pulverized with water, hence the name. The key distinction between the two is that while ceviche is marinated for anywhere from five to 30 minutes for optimal curing time, aguachile is simply tossed with lime juice and served immediately, making it sashimi-raw when eaten.
Though it’s important to buy sushi-grade fish when making ceviche, it’s imperative when making aguachile due to its lack of curing time. When making either, opt for the freshest fish you can find, and ditch anything that’s been frozen if you can.
The spicy and citrusy flavors of ceviche and aguachile vary and are really up to your imagination, but these recipes give you an idea of where to start. From classic shrimp aguachile and Peruvian-style ceviche to an arctic char aguachile with mint and a Peruvian-Japanese fusion dish, these are our favorite ways to bring the taste of fresh seafood home.
For aguachile that’s as classic as it gets, reach for cucumbers, chilies, onions, and lime juice. Though we like to pulverize the chilies with a mortar and pestle to extract the most flavor, it can easily be done with an immersion blender, too. Since aguachile is normally served raw, we like to cure the shrimp with a bit of salt and pop it in the fridge while prepping the other ingredients. Serve with avocados and tostadas for an unbelievably delicious yet simple dish.
Peruvian-style fish ceviche is as easy as it gets. To keep with tradition, use fresh ocean fish such as sea bass, grouper, or striped bass. Though lime juice is common, you can also use other citrus like lemon or sour orange juice, or even a combination. Mix the fish, citrus juice, onion, cilantro, and jalapeño together and allow to marinate for about five minutes. We recommend serving it with boiled corn and sweet potatoes, just as they would in Peru.
Though much about coctel de camarones classifies it as a distant cousin of ceviche, it’s no less worthy of a spot among your appetizers. Unlike Peruvian-style ceviche, it’s made with cooked shrimp or any other seafood you can find (think lobster, oysters, and octopus). And instead of the fresh aromatics that accompany traditional ceviche, here we dress it with ketchup, mayonnaise, and hot sauce. Serve atop saltine crackers for a variety of flavors and textures with each bite.
Spice things up with this aguachile, which features super-hot habanero chilies. Fresh arctic char takes the place of raw shrimp, jicama subs in for cucumber, and coriander seed and mint add extra flavor. The best way to prep the fish is to cut the fillet in half lengthwise, then cut the halves crosswise into thin slices. If you can’t find sashimi-grade arctic char, you can opt for other sashimi-grade fish such as salmon or scallops.
Here, we swap out the shrimp found in traditional aguachile for sweet raw scallops. They’re tossed with the same ingredients—lime juice, jalapeño chilies, cucumber, and red onion—and are also served with avocado and tostadas (and beer or tequila, if you like). Since most scallops are treated with a chemical for moisture retention before being sold, be sure to look for never-frozen “dry” scallops that are sold as is from the ocean.
When using lobster to make ceviche, it’s best when par-cooked—the key is to make sure you don’t overcook it. We like to plunge it into boiling water for just a bit (about a minute and a half for the tails, and three minutes for the claws) before halting the cooking in an ice bath. This should cook the lobster enough so that it pulls away easily from the shell while still translucent in the center. To prevent the lobster from curling while cooking, poke a couple of bamboo skewers through the tail before boiling. Once the cooking is out of the way, all that’s left to do is dress with lime, shallots, cilantro, and jalapeño—or whatever other aromatics you like.
Tiradito combines elements of Japanese sashimi with Peruvian ceviche for fresh, flavorful results. The dish replaces the smaller chunks of fish found in ceviche with large sashimi-style slices. So long as your fish is fresh and sashimi-grade, you can use whatever you like, such as salmon, yellowtail, fluke, or corvina. A blender makes quick work of the leche de tigre sauce, which includes yellow aji amarillo chili peppers, ginger, garlic, fresh lime juice, and cilantro. Spoon the sauce over the fish for a bright dish that’s full of flavor.
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