Approximate reading time: 7 minutes
The South American cuisine has many things to offer for hungry stomachs: Lomo Saltado, Empanadas, Vori Vori, Mbeyú, Chrurrasco, etc. Some would say, that vegetarians could have a difficult time to find a for their conviction a suitable dish. And that might be true: Especially BBQ’s are popular for South American families at the weekends. And BBQ’s contain most of the time? Yes, exactly: Meat. But one South American dish might be a worthwhile alternative to try.
All hardcore vegetarians or vegans miss of course many opportunities for good dishes. Speaking of myself I can’t even imagine to not eat meat or fish. This scenario never popped into my head, not even when one of my ex-girlfriends tried to make the whole vegetarian style tempting to me. There is no way, that I will ever try to avoid meat. Unfortunately there is too many good food that includes meat or fish. And I don’t want to miss that.
If someone would ask me the question: “If you have to stop eating either meat or fish, what would you chose?”I would probably not be able to give a profound or well argued answer. Simply both would be sad to avoid eating. Probably I would chose fish, because it’s more difficult to acquire and therefor more expensive. Meat on the other hand is easier to produce for a costumer and better available.
The most tasty South American fish-dish is Ceviche. It has also regionally different names like Cebiche or Seviche. But these names look very wrong in my eyes so forget about the alternative spellings. Ceviche comes originally from Peru, but has emerged in different American countries, like Ecuador, Chile and Mexico. All of these countries have adapted the Peruvian idea of preparing raw fish with there own tastes and styles.
And Peru loves Ceviche! The Peruvian government declared 10 years ago June 28 the ‘Day of Ceviche’, a yearly commemoration day to honor their traditional dish. Since 2005 it is even a national cultural heritage. According to a resolution of the Ministry of Production, which was published in their official gazette, the decision aims to
“promote and disseminate the Peruvian seviche, both nationally and internationally, as a national prestigious dish, stimulating its culinary consumption.”
Although they wrote Ceviche with an S, it reads like a love letter to their own food. I had the luck to try so far the Peruvian, Chilean and Ecuadorian version of Ceviche. The Mexican one I didn’t try so far. But I would like to share and compare the other three ones I tried.
First I must say, that I only tried one single time Ceviche from Chile. In 2014 I was for a couple of days in Santiago and tried a local dish of Ceviche. Spoiled after spending some months in Lima and eating the original version, the Ceviche from Chile was more than disappointing and not worth the money. Besides the very sour taste, the garlic and chili was marinated as well. It also contained mint, which really didn’t belong there. I didn’t take any photo of the plate, but here you can see a video about other food travelers who compared Peruvian with Chilean ceviche:
Not my favorite, I wouldn’t order it again.
A complete different style is the Ecuadorian Ceviche. You have more options to choose your main component you would it like to prepared with. Generally spoken, Ceviche Ecuadorian style is more expensive than the other in the two other countries, but this is due to the higher living costs in Ecuador. And it comes as well with a complete different style of preparing, check the following picture:
What we see here is almost a soup. although the fish is already dead, it swims inside of tomato sauce. Same reason for its taste is the different color. The idea with tomato is interesting, but changed the taste of the whole dish completely. Both examples here did not taste like lemon or a comparable sour flavor. The left one ($11.50) was with prawn and fish, the right one ($9.00) with a mix of various tastes. Not one both pictures visible are popcorn, Corn (fried corn) and Chifles (fried banana chips), what is typical side dish for Ecuador.
The original! The icon! The legend! Peruvian Ceviche comes with a sour taste and several side components. Slices of raw fish are marinated in freshly squeezed key lime or bitter orange juice. Nicely prepared and stacked over one another with eatable seaweed on top. Next to that it was prepared with sliced red onions, chili peppers, salt and pepper.
Next to the actual ceviche, the whole plate came with two sweet potatoes, fried yuca and corn. The second best after the unmistakable taste is the price: I only paid 31.00 Soles ($9.50). More than fair for a bunch of good food.
All in all the podium should look as followed: