The acidity in the citrus juice breaks down the protein in the fish and replicates the process of heat being applied to the meat. This means this meat is “cooked”, even though there is no heat involved (aka all the harmful bacteria is killed).
Most fish works for ceviche, but the best kinds are semi-firm white-fleshed ocean fish like sea bass, striped bass, grouper, sole or flounder. Oily fish like mackerel, sardines, tuna, bluefish or jack don’t work that well; freshwater fish, like trout or catfish, don’t work, either.
Ceviche goes well with saltines or other crackers. You can also use toasted pita bread or plain or onion bagels.
This dish can be eaten as a first course or main dish, depending on what is served with it.
It is best served chilled or at room temperature.
Because the dish is not cooked with heat, it must be prepared and consumed fresh to minimize the risk of food poisoning.
The preparation and consumption of ceviche is practically a religion in parts of Mexico, Central, and South America, and it seems as though there are as many varieties of ceviche as people who eat it.
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.
The ancient kinilaw dish of the Philippines is remarkably similar to ceviche and is another possible origin. Especially since citrus fruits, which are not indigenous to the Americas, are native to the Philippines.
The invention of the dish is also attributed to places ranging from Central America to the Polynesian islands in the South Pacific.
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.”
Another hypothesis, supported by the Royal Spanish Academy, is that ceviche has the same etymology as escabeche, which derives from Mozarabic izkebêch, in turn descending from Andalusian Arabic assukkabág, which also derives from Classical Arabic sakbaj (سکبا, meaning meat cooked in vinegar).
The name of the dish may be spelled variously as cebiche, ceviche, seviche or sebiche, but the more common spelling in Peru is ceviche with v which is an alternative spelling accepted by the Royal Spanish Academy, the official institution responsible for regulating the Spanish language in Spain.
In Peru, ceviche has been declared to be part of the country’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.
In Ecuador, shrimp ceviche is made solely with shrimp and includes tomato sauce.
In Mexico and some parts Central America, it is served either in cocktail cups with tostadas, salted crackers, or as a tostada topping and taco filling.
In El Salvador and Nicaragua one popular ceviche recipe is ceviche de concha negra (“black conch ceviche”), known in Mexico as pata de mula (“mule’s foot”). It is dark, nearly black, with a distinct look and flavor.
Ceviche is now a popular international dish, it reached the United States in the 1980s.
The largest ceviche weighed 11,480 kg (25,309.06 lbs) and was achieved by Universidad Tecnológica de Manzanillo (Mexico), in Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico, on 14 April 2017. The group of nearly 1,000 students and professors worked together to make a traditional ceviche colimote using tuna, onions, chiles, cilantro, tomatoes, and lime juice.