A Brief History of Ceviche
In the global culinary scene, no dish can be more fashionable than Ceviche. Widely enjoyed across the western hemisphere, Ceviche is the flagship dish of Peruvian cuisine. This traditional raw fish recipe has made its way into various cookbooks, magazines, culinary shows worldwide thus establishing, along other recipes, the glorious reputation Peruvian cuisine always deserved.
It is undeniable that in order to enjoy Ceviche as we know it, we assimilated various influences. But in truth, Peruvians have been eating ceviche for almost 2,000 years.
Scroll down for our favorite 18 varieties of Ceviche
Ceviche: The Aphrodisiac of the MocheImage Source: Toto Viajero
Ceviche was first eaten by the Moche. This ancient culture thrived in the coastal regions of La Libertad, Northern Peru. The Moche were epicureans who indulged in sensual pleasures (as their erotic vases assert) and ate raw fish as an aphrodisiac. After fishing on Caballito de Totora, the Moche macerated the catch with the juice of Banana Passion Fruit (Tumbo). More than a recipe, this was a technique to preserve the fish. Since Tumbo juice was not as acidic, the maceration could take days.
Centuries later, the Incas adopted the Moche tradition of eating raw fish. Instead of Tumbo juice, Incas preferred to macerate their fish with Chicha, a fermented corn beverage. Chicha’s alcohol content enhanced the fish flavor. In Northern regions, Aji (chili pepper) was also added to the mix. Incas dubbed this dish Siwichi, “fresh fish” in Quechua. Such is one of the many theories trying to explain Ceviche’s etymology.Image Source: Into the Void
Inca Theory: Siwichi: “Fresh Fish” in Quechua.
Moorish Theory: Sebech or Sei-Beach: “Sour food” in Moorish Arabic
Spanish Theory: Cebeche: comes from Escabeche, an old Spanish vinegary dish.
English Theory: Sea Beach: a dish made of raw fish and lemon juice, which English seamen ate.
Modern theory: Cebiche: it comes from “Cebo”, a colonial term used for “food” or “delicacy”
After the Spanish Conquest, the Ceviche recipe changed. Spaniards introduced lemon juice and onions, a trend they assimilated from Moorish cooks. Others preferred to use orange juice instead of lemon. The interesting fact is that Lima, capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru, became a cosmopolitan hub that absorbed foreign culinary trends as well as expanded Ceviche’s fame to the world.
Japanese Immigration and “The Great Ceviche Revolution”Image Source: Guillermo Figueroa
In our early Republic, fish and seafood were not massively consumed. Since marine products were inexpensive, the Peruvian elite regarded them as “food for the lower classes.” Such provincialism kept Peruvian nationals from appreciating the marvelous culinary choices they possessed. It took the influence of a foreign immigration group to uncover and exploit such boundless potential. As XpatNation believes, some of the greatest blessings for any country come through immigration.
Peruvians were fortunate when the Japanese immigrated in 1898. Before the Japanese’ arrival, our Cebiche style was still fixed within boundaries. As Gaston Acurio said, “the Japanese revolutionized our cebiche.” And yes, they did.
The masters of Sushi experimented with other types of seafood and far more ingredients. Just like that, and without any fear, the Japanese added octopus, tuna, flounder, ginger, cilantro, celery, etc. The Japanese created the Tiradito (Peruvian Sashimi). Moreover, they pushed the custom of slicing the fish in perfect squares and eating it almost raw. From then on, the Ceviche is cooked and eaten instantly. Thanks the Japanese for that.
Due to the Ceviche Revolution promoted by our nisei, Ceviche was gradually embraced by the middle class. Generations later, it became our best representative dish to worldwide audiences. One of the culinary titans of Nikkei cuisine was the late Chef Toshiro Konishi. The world renowned Chef Gaston Acurio regarded Toshiro as an absolute master. Toshiro’s priceless lessons prevailed for the benefit of Peruvian cuisine.
Ceviche: The People’s Contributions to our Amazing DishImage Source: Confieso que Cocino
Two thousand years later, Ceviche has gained a further complexity. Leaving aside the endless Ceviche inventions provided by our Chefs, we must consider the greatest contributions of “our people” It is enormous, not just in the range of ingredients but also in their presentation. Every Peruvian region has added something of their own so that each region has their own Ceviche style.
In Chimbote, Trujillo and Lima, for example, Ceviche is served with Canchita (Toasted Corn), Yuyo (seaweed type) and sweet potato. In the Northern regions of Chiclayo, Tumbes and Piura, Ceviche is eaten with Chifles (fried plantain). Other regions include or exclude various ingredients, depending on their communities.
Let’s see some of them.
18 Varieties of Peruvian Ceviche
Sea Urchin Ceviche – Atico, ArequipaImage Source: Menu Peru
In our “Independent Republic of Arequipa”, locals prepare the Sea Urchin Ceviche. Chef Gaston Acurio reveals that the best sea urchin is found in the Atico district. Atico fishermen catch it in vast amounts during the season, that runs from August through November. So if you crave tasting the world’s best Sea Urchin Cebiche, visit Atico. Urchin (Erizo) has a salty taste that combines well with lemon juice.
Gaston concludes: “They say Sea Urchin are aphrodisiac. Actually, most delicious food is aphrodisiac. It all depends on your mindset and the company you have.”
Ingredients: Fish, milk, Aji Charapita, sea urchin, onions, lemon juice, curcumin (palillo)
Tarwi Ceviche (Ceviche de Chocho) -AncashImage Source: Laylita
Tarwi Ceviche originated in Andean towns. Known as Cebiche de Chocho, its main ingredient is tarwi, a legume grown in high altitude fields. Andean women ate Tarwi due to its nutritive content. After getting tired of breastfeeding their children, women gave them Tarwi. This is why Tarwi is also named Chocho, since the Quechua term Chucho means women’s breast.
In order to get rid of its bitter taste, Tarwi is boiled for hours. Afterward, it is mixed with lime juice, salt, etc. Ambulantes sell Tarwi Cebiche in plastic bags on the market, streets and parks. Lima has literally hundreds of them.
Ingredients: Tarwi, onions, tomato, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil.
Cuttlefish Ceviche (aka Ceviche de Pota)- LimaImage Source: Comida y Sazon
Glamorous memories of my beloved Peru still prevail with me. In my popular neighborhood of Lima, my friends used to say: “Ceviche de Pota es de la Pota (Mare’)!” And it definitely was.
Besides tasting so good, Cuttlefish, a cousin of the squid, is very rich in proteins. For some reason, Cuttlefish is widely used by most Cevicheros de Carretilla (street hawkers) of Lima. Ceviche de Pota is cooked instantly in front of you, with fresh limes, and recently sliced onions. Sold at a bargain price, this Ceviche is really de la Pota Mare.
Ingredients: Cuttlefish, lime juice, corn, sliced onions, Aji limo, parsley, salt and pepper.
Shrimp Ceviche (Ceviche de Camarones) – ArequipaImage Source: Vive Latino America
Arequipeños claim Ceviche comes from “Sivinche”, a shrimp based dish the locals made by using vinegar. Although this theory is unproven, it is undeniable that Arequipeños have been eating Ceviche for ages.
Shrimp Ceviche is a classic Arequipeño dish. For centuries, Arequipeño communities extracted Shrimp from their rivers, the Majes, Camaná and Ocoña. They utilized their catch to instantly prepare Shrimp Ceviche. After switching from using vinegar to lemon, some Arequipeños now prefer adding orange juice instead. Shrimp Ceviche is accompanied with boiled cassava (yuca).
The shrimp must be pre-cooked before preparation, but some skip this step to maintain the flavor. Spicy lovers don’t add the usual Ají but their favorite red pepper: Rocoto.
Ingredients: Shrimp, Orange juice, sliced onions, salt, Rocotito, Cassava.
Hot Stone Shrimp Ceviche (Ceviche de Camarones a la Piedra) – ArequipaImage Source: Que rica vida
If you wonder how Chupe de Camarones (Shrimp soup) was invented, we may have an answer. As mentioned above, Arequipeños boiled their shrimp before making their ceviche. After being peeled off, the shrimp was placed in a ceramic pot. They then set up a fire using stones (piedras). However, some Arequipeños preferred their ceviche warm and just put the rest of ingredients in the pot. This sauteé dish was called Ceviche de Camarones a la Piedra.
A recipe variation was later tried by adding water, milk, eggs and potatoes, to thus create the legendary ‘Chupe de Camarones.’ As all others, this theory is also unproven.
Ingredients: Shrimp, lime juice, cilantro, olive oil cilantro, sliced onions.
Trout Ceviche (Ceviche de Trucha) – JuninImage Source: La pizca del Sabor
Trout fish has a long precedent in Peru. The fish was first brought by the Cerro de Pasco mining Corporation to Junin, around 1930. Trout fertilized eggs were bred in Junin lakes, near the mining town of La Oroya. On their days off, Junin miners went out fishing for trout at their lakes and rivers. Among other recipes, these great Peruvians came up with Ceviche de Trucha.
Trucha preservation was unfeasible due to serious pollution. But Peruvian businessmen later built fish farming complexes (a.k.a Piscifactorias) in Junin. This is how this magnificent Andean dish survived and is still enjoyed there. Among all Peruvian Ceviches, Trout Ceviche is distinctive due to the fish color (orange) and its flavor.
Ingredients: Trout, Ají, Onions, Sweet potatoes.
Asparagus Ceviche (Cebiche de Esparragos) – IcaImage Source: Spoon University
Peru is one of the world’s top Asparagus producers. 70% of Peruvian production (160,000 tons) is exported to the US every year.
The southern region of Ica is the most suited region to grow Asparagus. Its warm climate produces a phenomenal product that equals that of China, the world’s biggest producer. Precisely, Iqueños created their own Asparagus Cebiche version. It has the same ingredients of a Classic Ceviche, excluding the fish. Other variations include black olives too. Cebiche de Esparragos is served in Iqueño restaurants for tourists eager to explore regional flavors. Pairing this amazing ceviche with Pisco Iqueño would be considered a match made in heaven.
Ingredients: Asparagus, lemon juice, salt, pepper, lettuce, sweet potato.
Mushroom Ceviche (Ceviche de Champiñones) – LimaImage Source: Provecho Peru
Vegetarians shouldn’ be exempt from exploring Ceviche flavors. Along with Asparagus Ceviche, we have the Mushroom Ceviche. This Limeño dish is particularly enjoyed in the restaurants of Chorrillos, however, it is also a favorite of Huancainos. Mushrooms must be briefly boiled to attain a fine texture. Ingredients like garlic, parsley and ginger make this ceviche truly unforgettable.
Ingredients: Mushroom, parsley, garlic, ginger, olive oil, lime juice, sliced onions.
‘Criadilla’ Ceviche – CajamarcaImage Source: Gonza Alderete
Ceviches have imbibed something of each region. Cajamarquinos feel honored to present Ceviche de Criadilla (Lamb testicle Ceviche). The dish is a phenomenal levantamuertos, perfect for a hangover.
Probably their best Ceviche is served at Las ‘Criadillas restaurant’. Cajamarquina Victoria Rivas Aliaga has cooked this recipe her entire life. The dish was first invented by her mother, forty years ago. With such historical background, Cajamarquinos truly worship her Ceviche. How is her Ceviche so tasty? Chef Victoria said: “the secret is to add the Criadilla fluid to the lime juice.. it’s not only good for a hangover but also a great aphrodisiac.”
Ingredients: Criadilla, Lime Juice, cilantro, Salt, pepper, potatoes.
Flounder Ceviche (Ceviche de Lenguado)- LimaImage Source: Peru 21
Flounder, the most expensive fish in Peruvian markets, has been dubbed the King of all fish. Many believe Lenguado is le Poisson par excellence for a Ceviche. Although some chefs disagree, stating that Cojinova or Mero are the most appropriate.
Master Chef Javier Wong, the world’s greatest Master Cevichero, believes the issue goes beyond: “You can’t cook Cebiche if you don’t have a good soul..if you only think about making money…Impossible! Why bother!?..there is a wisdom underneath, an instinct that unfortunately can’t be taught”
Javier Wong’s specialty is Ceviche de Lenguado, a plate he serves at Chez Wong, a restaurant located inside his home. In order to dine at this exclusive place, you must book a table for two months in advance.
Ingredients: Flounder, lime juice, onions, salt, pepper, Aji limo.
Ceviche de Paiche- The Peruvian AmazonImage Source: Flickr
Amazonians boast over a hundred original recipes. In the preparation of Cebiche, our glorious Charapas use the Amazonian fish “Paiche.” De la Selva su Peje, Paiche is known as “The Giant of the Amazon” measuring ten feet and weighing 500 pounds. Since Paiche is exquisite, it became a target of predatory fishing. Fishermen navigating on Peque Peques (Amazonian boats) caught Paiches in exaggerated amounts. Luckily, timely government restrictions saved Paiche from extinction.
Ceviche de Paiche has the same ingredients as most Ceviches. The only variations are that locals use Aji Charapita instead of Aji, and their regional cilantro, Sacha culantro. They also love having Ceviche with boiled Cassava and, why not, sipping Rompe Calzón, the Amazonian aphrodisiac per excellence.
Ingredients: Paiche, lime juice, cassava, onion, lime juice, Aji Charapita, Sacha culantro.
Black Shellfish Ceviche (Ceviche de Conchas Negras)- TumbesImage Source: Flickr
Black Shellfish Ceviche was part of the daily diet of Tumbesino fishermen. But nowadays it is massively enjoyed in restaurants of Lima and other coastal cities.
The demand for black shellfish is high and the government imposed restrictions for its preservation. Yet, Conchas Negras can be ordered at any time of year, being considered an effective levantamuertos and an aphrodisiac. The dark juice inside of Shellfish is ideal to make a Tumbesino version of Tiger’s milk. This is the Leche de Pantera (Panther’s milk) containing sliced bits of fish, lemon, and served in a glass.
Ingredients:Black Shellfish, lime juice, salt, Canchita (Toasted Corn), lettuce, potatoes.
Chinguirito – LambayequeImage Source: Fuerza Chiclayo
This is a Lambayecano variation of the Ceviche. Chinguirito is made with pre-dried salted fish (preferably Guitarra fish) and marinated with tiger’s milk. It is usually served with cassava, lettuce, corn and specially Zarandaja (a regional bean.)
Ingredients: Dried Guitarra fish, Tiger’s milk, Cassava, Corn, lettuce, Zarandaja.
Ceviche Mixto – LimaImage Source: Camaron, que tal Concha!
Besides being inventive, Peruvians can be pretty hilarious. In our Limeño neighborhood, the freeloaders or scroungers who shamelessly lived off their friends were nicknamed Ceviche Mixto, because they were Camarones con Concha. (Silly joke for Peruvians)
Ceviche Mixto includes Camarones (Shrimp), Conchas (shellfish) and fish. This is perhaps the most popular dish for Peruvians fond of seafood. Limeños usually pair it with a cold beer (a.k.a Chela al Polo) during the summer while laying down at the beach.
Ingredients: Shrimp, Shellfish, Tilapia, lime juice, onions, Sweet potatoes.
Crab Ceviche (Ceviche de Cangrejos)- ChimboteImage Source: Cevicheria
If you ever tour around Chimbote, Northern Peru, make sure you taste Crab Ceviche. Mind you, Chimbotanos claim to have invented this recipe and are insanely proud of it. They proudly present it thus: “Our Crab Cebiche is the best Cebiche in the entire Peruvian territory.”
Chimbotano cooks say that Ceviche de Cangrejos mainly depends on two ingredients: fresh lemons and ripe Rocotos (Red hot peppers). They are not afraid to publicize their recipe to the world. “We have no secrets, our only secret is our blessed Chimbotano hands that prepare this dish with so much passion.”
Ingredients: Crab, corn, lettuce, sliced onions, Rocoto, fresh lime juice.
Silverside Fish Ceviche (Ceviche de Pejerrey)- Chim Pum CallaoImage Source: Flickr
In our populous district of Callao, there are multiple working-class eateries called Huariques. Callao residents (Chalacos) have nearly 200 Huariques specializing in seafood plates, one of them being “Silverside Fish Ceviche”. Callao is the main seaport of Peru and their marine products are 100% fresh.
Silverside fish is the cheapest of all marine products. As Gaston Acurio said “Of all the products that the Peruvian sea offers, none has brought so much joy for so little money as Silverside Fish. This wonderful little fish abounds in our cold coast, so if you are inspired to go to the harbor to stroll and browse, search for it, buy it, enjoy it…Ready for a Tiradito, ceviche or fried, Pejerrey is our favorite.”
Ingredients: Silverside, lime juice, sliced onions, Aji, cilantro, lettuce, sweet potato.
Octopus Ceviche (Ceviche de Pulpo) – LimaImage Source: Canal Cocina
The Japanese first immigrated to Peru as agricultural servants in the 1900s. Once their contracts expired, the entrepreneurial Japanese felt obliged to open small businesses. Since the 1920’s, the Japanese opened cafes, retail shops, bodegas and small restaurants. Who could predict these restaurants would set up a Ceviche Revolution that, a century later, seized the world by storm?
Back then, octopus, eels, squids and scallops were seafood that Peruvians hardly ate. Japanese immigrants taught us to discover magical ways to cook it. Nowadays, most Peruvian Ceviches enjoyed around the world possess a Japanese-Peruvian DNA. Octopus ceviche is one of them.
Ingredients: Octopus, olive oil, cilantro, Aji panca, lime juice.
Ceviche Nikkei- LimaImage Source: Our Fancy World
After browsing dozens of Peruvian restaurant menus worldwide, I discovered that most of them included Tiraditos (Peruvian Sashimi), Pulpo al Olivo (Grilled Octopus) and Ceviche. All of those phenomenal flavors were brought to perfection by our Japanese immigrants. Immigration has been a blessing for Peru, as well as for the United States. And what better homage for our Peruvian nikkei than enjoying their Ceviche on any given day?
Ingredients: Ginger, Jalapeño, garlic, Olive oil, soy sauce, Tuna, sliced onions, lime juice.
Every June 28, Peruvians celebrate the National Day of the Peruvian Ceviche. On this day, Peruvians feel thrilled of having a Ceviche, preserving a tradition the Moche started almost two thousand years ago. After all, by having endless Ceviche styles, every day is a perfect day to enjoy Ceviche. Any form you want it, with your favorite ingredients, and preferably sipping a Peruvian Pisco sour. As most Peruvians say, ¡Ceviche es un orgullo del Perú, y del Perú para el mundo!
Cheers to that!
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