Ceviche is one of those dishes that is almost always better prepared at home. As with the simplest of dishes, the devil is in the details – it doesn’t really lend itself to big batch preparation and has to be dressed not too long before serving. The best part of making it at home is being able to adjust each little element to your own tastes – more or less onion or coriander, and curing fish in lime juice your preferred texture.
What fish can I use for ceviche?
Buy the freshest fish you can get your hands on. If it wasn’t caught that day, I generally don’t bother making ceviche because I don’t like running the risk of poisoning my guests. I’m sure it would be fine to make ceviche with fish caught the day before, but I have never found myself wanting to run this risk. This generally rules out supermarket-variety prepackaged fish which is usually a day or two old. Head to your nearest fishmonger or market – if you tell them you’re making ceviche, they should be able to point you in the right direction.
I’ve used kingfish, barramundi, snapper and sea bass before but almost any semi-firm white fish will work (with the exception of oily fish like mackerel). Most people have some opinions on fish, so use what you like and are familiar with. I have stopped using tilapia after my mother told me that they were bottom feeders (not technically true) and reading this article from the NYT. Other recipes recommend, halibut, haddock, corvina, mahi mahi, pollack, sole, flounder to name a few.
With any fish dish, I have three rules for choosing fish –
Buy from a trusted source
If your fishmonger can’t tell you what’s fresh in today, then steer clear. I know that sometimes we don’t always have the luxury of choice, but a good fishmonger should honestly be able to tell you what fish is fresh enough for ceviche or sashimi. I’ve bought fish from Kollupitiya Market before because I trust the fishmonger. It’s an open air market, and possibly not the cleanest one at that, but I trust the fishmonger (Chaminder at Stall #1, for those in Colombo). These days I’m lucky enough to have freshly caught barramundi delivered to me from Round Island/Ocean Pick; probably some of the best ceviche I’ve ever had.
Smell the fish
If your fish smells fishy, it’s already starting to rot. Fresh fish should smell like the ocean.
Touch the fish
If you press into the fish and your finger leaves an indent, skip it. It means the flesh is already starting to decompose. Fresh fish should feel firm and spring back a little, a bit like a just-cooked steak.
How to fillet fish for ceviche
Because ceviche relies on the flavour and texture of raw fish, it’s very important to properly remove bloodlines, skin, sinew and any bones in the fillet.
Before you begin wash and pat dry the fillet.
After trimming the fish, the fillet is ready to cut into evenly sized cubes.
How long should I cure the fish in lime juice for?
This is probably the trickiest part of making ceviche and largely depends on your tastes. If you like sashimi, you’ll likely err on the side of a shorter cure. The total time will vary depending how much lime juice you use – whether you gently toss your fish in lime juice or cover it completely – but anything between 10 to 30 minutes is fine. Between 30 minutes to one hour, it’s edible – not great but not terrible. After an hour, the fish starts to become chalky, almost powdery and overcooked. Refer to Kenji’s guide if you want a more in depth review.
Top tips for ceviche
- Keep the fish cold – when not handling, cover and put the fillet in the fridge
- Cut all ingredients carefully into an even dice – avocado should be the same size as the fish and the onion should be cut into tiny dice because no one likes a chunk of raw onion (except maybe Tony Abbott)
- Taste as you go, adding more of each ingredient as you like
- If you or one your guests isn’t that keen on fish, pad it out with some diced tomatoes, cucumber, underripe mango or capsicum. Ok the last two aren’t my favourite mixed with fish, but to each their own.
- 150g barramundi, skin off, trimmed and cut into 1cm dice
- juice of three limes, about 100ml
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 120g avocado, cut into 1 cm dice
- ½ small red onion, cut into fine dice
- 3 tbsp coriander, finely sliced
- ½ red chilli, seeds removed and thinly sliced into strips
- Wash and dry the fish, then trim all bloodlines, skin, sinew and check for bones. Cut into an even 1cm dice.
- Place the fish in a small bowl and pour over lime juice. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover and put into fridge to keep cool.
- While waiting, dice the avocado, onion and finely slice the chilli and coriander.
- After the fish has been marinating for 10 minutes, add the avocado, red onion, coriander and chilli and gently mix through with a spatula. Allow to marinate for a further 5 minutes in a cool place.
- Serve chilled within 15-30 minutes, with corn chips or fried tostadas.