At this point, you may have noticed that the weather in the tropics is generally pretty great and relatively steady. So, since we’re climatically spoiled, we call the few months of the year when the temperature grows slightly hotter “summer”, and look for different ways of going about life. During Guatemala’s “summer”, which often coincides with religious festivities, one dish that is very popular is the ceviche. This incredible meal is well-liked because it is refreshing, and also because of religious reasons: there’s a ton of days during Lent and Holy Week in which christians aren’t supposed to eat any red meat, and the main ingredient in ceviche just happens to be seafood.
There’s no easy way of explaining ceviche because there are several ways of preparing it. Allegedly, it was first made in South America by the Incas, who had plenty of access to fish and shellfish, which they would marinate with chicha, a fermented drink. Over time, this delicious meal made its way through the continent, which caused it to undergo several regional variations to its name. There are now four correct ways of spelling it (ceviche, cebiche, seviche, and, believe it or not, sebiche) depending on the country you’re in.
Now, if the word used to describe it can vary that much, just imagine how much the dish in itself changes from place to place. Its main ingredients are basically any seafood you can get with any kind of citric juice available, so it’s a pretty open-ended recipe. The most commonly used citric juices come from lime, lemon or bitter orange. In some places, they don’t even use citric juices, and instead make them with tomato juice or vinegar.
Most ceviches have diced tomatoes, or tomato sauce and other vegetables such as onions or avocados. It also usually relies a lot on spices, which also vary from country to country. The most common ones are coriander, worcestershire sauce, chile, mustard, and so on.
Another similarity in every country’’s ceviche-eating habits is that it’s usually accompanied by something bulky, often made of heavy dough. The supplement tends to be more on the traditional side of each culinary culture. For instance, in Mexico, people will eat their ceviche with tortillas. In Guatemala, it’s served with a side plate of tamalitos while, in Ecuador, it is usually paired with chifles. However, the most common one throughout all ceviche-eating countries are actually soda crackers.
The reason behind resorting to these sorts of complements is no other than the fact that they go very well together. Ceviche is pretty runny and fresh, and it has a strong flavour, so having a heavy compliment that’s not as savoury balances out the textures and flavours. Since a lot of this side dishes are served hot while ceviche is a strictly cold dish, they can even out the temperature also. It’s a truly beautiful thing.
Ceviche can be found anywhere from street vendors to fancy restaurants. Because of that, the price can vary tremendously. It usually tends to be more on the expensive side because it’s seafood-based, though this really depends on the abundance of said seafoods in the place where you’re at. For example, you’ll definitely find cheaper, higher-quality ceviche in Monterrico than you would in Guatemala City.
Keeping in mind that ceviche is ever-changing, we highly encourage you to go on the culinary-adventure of trying as many of them as you possibly can. Hell, since it’s so easy to make, experiment with some recipes and have a party. Summer’s all about fun with friends after all!