Tilapia ceviche is just one of the many variations of the popular ceviche of Central and South America.
Ceviche is a dish typical of Central and South America. Its origins are highly disputed among various Central and South American countries.
Before the Spanish conquest, the Indians prepared ceviche by marinating it in a fermented juice called “chicha”, which comes from maize. Once the Spanish arrived, the use of citrus became prevalent. As a side note, I want to add that it was the Arabs who introduced citrus fruits to Spain (they occupied the Iberian peninsula for about 700 years). I have also read some sources who say that the Spanish nobility who came to the New World brought with them Arab cooks who employed the use of citrus in pickling fish.
Ideally ceviche calls for a mild white fish. Here in the U.S. I use tilapia, since the fish I grew up with-corvina ( mild tasting white fish with firm meat) is not readily available in my area. I don’t think that taste or texture are sacrificed by using tilapia. Ceviche also lends itself to octopus or even shrimp. Check out my recipe for shrimp ceviche. There really is no set recipe since the various countries where ceviche is popular impart their own regional preferences by either adjusting the spiciness or the tartness.
In Latin America it is common to see ceviche as an appetizer at most seafood restaurants and also at many appetizer parties. In many South American countries it is sold as street food. While growing up it was always a staple at Christmas and New Year’s, and at many parties I attended. I have served tilapia ceviche to my sushi shy friends and they have all loved it, since I tend to fib a bit and tell them that it is “pickled.” They still don’t know my little secret!!!
This dish is so popular in Panama all the grocery stores sell small pastry cups to serve with ceviche. Here in the USA I serve my tilapia ceviche with Scoops!
Here are some ceviche tips when preparing the dish. Frozen tilapia is fine to use but fresh is better if you can find it. Just be sure to have it fully thawed when you start to prepare the dish. You want to use fresh limes and be sure to put all the sliced pieces of tilapia in a glass or ceramic dish. Do not use a metal prep bowl as this would have a lime acid to metal reaction and give the ceviche a bad flavor. Be sure to use enough lime juice to cover the tilapia and you can cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator while the acid “cooks” it. The tilapia will actually turn from the translucent raw color to white just as when you cook with heat. When the tilapia turns a bit firm and white it will be done and this usually takes 3 to 4 hours depending on the thickness of the fish. I would not freeze ceviche as it would ruin the consistency and it really is a dish to eat fresh. Ceviche is ALL about fresh flavors. In keeping with the “fresh” dish idea try to eat it all the same day. I have had it the next day and it is really tasty but after two days the lime acid really starts to over “cook” the fish and it gets a bit soft.
If you want to make ceviche that really has some heat we would take 3 or 4 of the Panamanian version of the habanero or scotch bonnet peppers, core them, remove the seeds and place large slices into the dish while the lime juice cooks the fish. Once it is finished and ready to serve, remove the slices of those habanero peppers.
I hope you enjoy this dish. As I said earlier, I grew up with this dish and we also make it with shrimp. If you want to try it with shrimp here is my recipe for shrimp ceviche.
Here is a traditional Peruvian style ceviche made with tilapia or and mild white fish that is available is fine.
- 1 pound white saltwater fish tilapia works especially well
- 1 cup lime juice fresh squeezed - - or enough to cover cubed fish
- 2 Tbsp. orange juice fresh squeezed - or bitter orange is better
- 1 tsp. Kosher salt paleo diet: sea salt
- 1 tsp. lime zest
- 1/4 tsp. sugar
- 1 jalapeno cored, seeded and diced
- 1 red onion sliced very thinly into half-moons
- 2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
- Cut the fish into small pieces: You can dice it or leave it in pieces up to 1/2 inch square, but remember that the larger the pieces the longer it will take to “cook.”.
- Salt the fish, then cover with the citrus juice in a non-reactive (glass preferably) container with a lid. Add the sliced onions, jalapenos, lime zest and sugar.
Chill in the fridge for about 4 hours. When you take it out of the fridge add the cilantro and stir. The "cook" time is the time in the fridge. The acid will "cook" the fish to a nice consistency.
- To serve: place ceviche in a glass bowl and scoop using a plastic serving spoon. DO NOT use a metal spoon because the acid will react with the metal.
- Ceviche is so sharp and acidic it cries out for beer and tortilla chips as an accompaniment -- although you won't find tortilla chips in Peru. In Peru, you will most often find this served with potatoes, either sweet or white.