While the origins of ceviche are widely disputed, it’s widely attributed to Peru, where it’s considered a part of the national heritage. This version brings together the flavors of Southeast Asia with the classic Central and South American technique of marinating raw fish in citrus juice.
The citrusy lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves give this ceviche a distinctly Thai flavor, and the fish sauce adds salt and enough umami to make even the mildest of fish flavorful. With crisp slices of red onion, thai chilies and a hint of palm sugar, this ceviche finds a pleasant balance between the five tastes.
Before you run out and make this with the fish you got on sale from the supermarket, there’s a big misconception that I want to address. While it make look cooked, fish soaked in an acid is not cooked, since it has not been heated.
So what’s happening then? When you apply heat to fish, the proteins denature giving it an opaque look and firming up the meat. Soaking fish in an acid will also denature proteins, which is why it takes on the appearance of cooked fish; but because there is no heat being applied there’s no guarantee that bacteria and parasites have been destroyed.
While acidity will inhibit bacterial growth in food, there are strains of acid-resistant bacteria, as well as parasites that can survive in an acidic environment. Think of it this way, if a parasite can survive a trip through your stomach to cause problems in your bowels, they can certainly survive a bath in some lime juice.
That’s why you should never use fish for ceviche that you wouldn’t feel comfortable eating raw. For more information on finding fish that’s safe to eat raw, check out my post on The Sushi Grade Myth.
Food blogger Marc Matsumoto blends Thai and South American flavors in this lemongrass ceviche recipe on the Fresh Tastes blog.
- 200 grams (7 ounces) firm white-meat fish such as flounder or red seabream
- 1 stalk (about 8 grams) lemongrass, white part only, thinly sliced
- 2 kaffir lime leaves
- 4 grams (1 small clove) garlic
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon palm sugar
- 1-2 thai bird chilies, thinly sliced(to taste)
- 40 grams (1/2 small) red onion, thinly sliced
- cilantro, (to taste) chopped
- Remove any bones and cut the fish into cubes.
- Add the lemongrass, lime leaves, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar to a blender and puree until smooth.
- Pour this mixture over the fish, chiles and onions. Let the mixture soak for at least 4 hours or up to 24.
- Just before serving, stir in some chopped cilantro.
Yield: 2 servings
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.