Ecuadorian Ceviche

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Ceviche is a seafood dish very popular in the coastal regions of the Americas, especially in Central and South America. The dish is typically made from fresh raw fish marinated in citrus juices such as lemon or lime and spiced with chili peppers. Additional seasonings such as onion, salt and pepper may also be added. Ceviche is usually accompanied by side dishes that complement its flavors such as sweet potato, lettuce, corn or avocado. As the dish is not cooked with heat, it must be prepared fresh to avoid potentially detrimental effects on the health of the consumer.

Ceviche’s birthplace is disputed between Peru and Ecuador, and as both countries have an amazing variety of fish and shellfish, it could easily have come from the ancient Inca civilizations of Peru and Ecuador. Every Latin American country has given seviche/ceviche its own touch of individuality by adding its own particular garnishes.  In Ecuador, it is accompanied by popcorn, nuts, or corn nuts. It is also served in a large crystal bowl with the guests helping themselves, either by spearing it with toothpicks or filling the pastry shells.

The origin of the name of the dish is also disputed. One hypothesis suggests that the common Spanish word for the dish “cebiche” has its origin in the Latin word “cibus”, which translates to English as “food for men and animals”. Further hypothesis base the origin of the term on “escabeche”, Spanish word for pickle, or that it´s simply a variation of the word “siwichi”, the traditional Quechua name for the dish.

In modern times, the name of the dish is often spelled either as “cebiche”, “ceviche” or “seviche”, based on regional location. All three spelling variations are accepted by the Royal Spanish Academy, the official Institution responsible for regulating the Spanish language.

Those who argue for a Peruvian or Ecuadorian origin claim that the Andean natives used banana passionfruit before the arrival of the Spanish, to prepare ceviche. When the Spanish introduced citrus fruits, the natives apparently preferred the taste and began to use limes and lemon to prepare their fish. The fact that ceviche was unknown in former Eastern Spanish colonies such as Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, lends credence to this hypothesis.

In my country, Ecuador, ceviche tends to be made with tomato sauce for a tangy taste, specially the shrimp ceviche. In the province of Manabi, they prepare ceviche with lime juice, salt and the juice provided by the shrimp itself is very popular. In Ecuador, ceviche is also made with various types of local shellfish, such as black clam, oysters, spondilus, barnacles, among others. It is served in a bowl with toasted corn kernels as a side dish fried green plantains or thinly sliced plantains(plantain chips), called “chifles” and pop corn are also typical ceviche side dishes.