What Is Peruvian Fish?

Dan Harkins
Dan Harkins
Root vegetables, which can be served with Peruvian fish.
Root vegetables, which can be served with Peruvian fish.

Though the raw fish dish known as ceviche is thought to have originated with the indigenous people of Latin America, it has spread in popularity throughout the globe. Perhaps nowhere has this preparation been more embraced than in the coastal country of Peru, which battles with Ecuador over where exactly this dish was first made. Peruvian fish, so heralded that it gets its own national holiday on June 28, involves marinating most kinds of seafood in citrus juice from oranges, lemons or limes as well as hard onion and the Peruvian chili known as aji. This cleanses the seafood of bacteria, while offering a well-rounded flavor and texture without the addition of heat.

Though certain types of fish are regularly set aside for Peruvian fish ceviche, most species are welcome. Some of the more traditional choices are cod, trout and sea bass, called corvina by the locals. Another popular option is using shellfish like peeled shrimp and adding tomato juice for a complementary tang. These are just a few of the options though. Just like Japanese sushi — if it can be caught, it is probably suitable for ceviche.

Peruvian fish begins with fresh seafood, preferably caught that morning by hook. Fish caught with nets might display damage to the flesh or even the meat below. Most public health authorities warn about several types of bacterial agents that might be passed on by consuming ceviche, if it is not prepared with fresh seafood. This could also be transmitted when fresh seafood is used, if the acidic marination is not long enough and bacteria is allowed to form on the fish before service.

After cut into cubes or strips, the meat for a cold Peruvian fish dish is marinated in juice for a period as short as 10 minutes or as long as several hours in the refrigerator. The citrus juice is not alone with the fish though. Chefs will add diced onions, aji chili pepper, salt and pepper as well as minced garlic and fresh herbs like mint or cilantro. This profile is capable of hitting many quadrants of the tastebuds.

Some serve Peruvian fish alongside hard corn tortillas or a medley of cooked root vegetables like carrots and potatoes that is spiced in a similar fashion. These combinations make the dish a heartier meal. For an appetizer, it is common to find Peruvian fish served in a martini glass.

Those who prefer their seafood truly cooked can get the same kind of flavors in a few other types of Latin American dishes. Escabeche bakes or pan-fries the fish, but uses a sauce made with the same types of ingredients as ceviche. Another iteration is Peruvian fish soup, which adds a fish or clam stock and perhaps a more diverse mixture of seafood and vegetables.

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    • Root vegetables, which can be served with Peruvian fish.
      Root vegetables, which can be served with Peruvian fish.