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Jun 15, 2007 05:27 PM

Why is ceviche not more popular?

I'm a blogger and foodie living in Nicaragua and I love ceviche.

But when I have worked in other parts of the world nobody has ever heard of the dish.

It seems to me that this could become the "Latino Sushi" and be a staple in restaurants all over the world. So why is it not more popular?

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  1. Ceviche is a major, common dish in Peru--made from sea fish along the coast and from river fiish in the Amazon. Everyone eats it there. Its a Peruvian dish. No one thinks of sushi. I've worked a lot in Nicaragua (be there again in August) and have never had ceviche there.

    18 Replies
    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

      I think of ceviche as fairly Pan-Latino...had it in Ecuador and Mexico as well, and am quite positive I saw it in Bolivia (but with all the other awful experiences with eating Bolivian food, no way was I trusting anyone to make me raw fish!).

      1. re: NancyC

        I lived in Bolivia for a few years in the 70s. Liked the food, but never had ceviche there (but didn't spend much time in the Bolivian Amazon). Yes, we have ceviche cocktails here in Colombia and in Ecuador--but usually of camarones. When I think of ceviche, I think of fish and of a meal, and then of Peru.

        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          Oh, in Ecuador I usually had it with fish. One of my best meals in the country was a fish ceviche with patacones and a fruit shake for $5. Although I had a squid ceviche as well, also excellent.

          Also in the Bahamas...the conch salad thing they do (is there a special name for that?) is just raw conch marinated in lime, isn't it?

          1. re: NancyC

            NancyC, the "cracked conch" in the Bahamas, and the conch salad with peppers, lime, a little onion and tomato, is often made to order with a conch pulled from a salt water pen and pounded 2 minutes ago. Not much marinade time, but surely fresh!

        2. re: NancyC

          In addition to a millenary Ceviche tradition (fish was commonly marinaded in pineapple vinegar in pre hispanic Mexico).... I started seeing a fusion of Sushi, Carpaccio & Ceviche in Mexico City in the late 90's. Ever since then I thought a Ceviche Bar would be a killer idea here in the U.S... but anybody I've ever mentioned it to is lukewarm on the idea.... go figure.

          Anybody heading to Cabo San Lucas should head out to Nick San to taste some of the stuff. As I understand it there is now a Nick San in Mexico City as well... but I can only vouch for the Cabo place. The local fish is outstanding... such an experience to have fish that has never been frozen.

          1. re: Eat_Nopal

            I believe you are wrong about the origin of ceviche. It originated in Peru. Pre inca culture the Mochicas.

            1. re: rma1thunder

              Its a point of contention.... I understand the controversy... didn't Peru go to war with Ecuador over Ceviche? Anyway... the Mochicas didn't have limes... Mexico had Pineapple Vinegar and a culture of eating raw & preserved seafood... besides I have visited the Museo de la Nacion, and Museo Nacional de Antropologia & Arqueologia in Peru... and it is obvious that the Pre-Inca peoples from Northern Peru borrowed extensively from the Maya & Pre-Maya people of Mesoamerica (where civilization predates Peruvian civilization by at least 1,000 years)... so I will put my money on Mesoamerica as the origin of Ceviche. Check.

              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                I understand that the Vikings ate a lot of pickled herring, but when they arrived in Mesoamerica 500 years before Columbus, they substituted limes for vinegar.

                1. re: Passadumkeg

                  Ha, ha.... the problem with that theory is that there were no limes in the Americas prior to Columbus.

          2. re: NancyC

            Ceviche in Bolivia? A land-locked country with slow trains? Unwise. The best ceviche is invariably found at restaurants that specialize in it as the cool noon meal in the heat of the day, made from the morning catch. As others have pointed out here, the shelf life is really measured in hours.

            1. re: Veggo

              There is ceviche in the Peruvian Amazon--made from river fish--that is very good. I've eaten more fresh water fish ceviche than sea fish ceviche in Peru. I'd imagine the same for Bolivia. Although I lived there for several years, I didn't spend time in the Bolivian Amazon, so don't really know, however.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                Interesting... I have never had ceviche made from fresh water fish. You are obviously comfortable with the calculus of parasite-prone fish with whatever neutralizing effects the citric acid imparts. Can you shed a little more light on this, Sam?

                1. re: Veggo

                  Haven't a clue as to parisites in Amazon fish. One other problem, however: Natural occuring soil mercury leaches into the rivers from slash-and-burn agricultural plots. Mercury then accumulates in the tissue of fish up the food chain. One needs to avoid eating too much of the big predators--that, unfortunately, are the tastiest.

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    Any insight on the relative safety of freshwater shellfish? When the wife got pregnant most of the research we find pointed to shellfish as the safest seafood to eat in general... not to mention their great health benefits.

                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                      I would guess that freshwater shellfish should be fine: they die off pretty quickly if their habitat is polluted with anything.

              2. re: Veggo

                I used to live in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Amazonian tropical, and ate cerviche all the time. We just returned from Costa Rica, lots of cerviche.

            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

              The best I've had in a long time is at a Peruvian restaurant (Latin Chef) in San Diego.


              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                actually one form of peruvian ceviche, tiradito, is heavily influence by the large japanese population in Peru.

              2. I've seen a lot of it in NYC and San Francisco. In upscale Latin places, Latin-Japanese fusion places, general Asian fusion places. Sushi Samba in NYC has a dual menu of sushi and ceviche. Ceviche fits in well in the spectrum of raw fish preparations that also includes"new-wave" Nobu-style sashimi and Italian crudo, all of which seem pretty popular.

                1 Reply
                1. re: daveena

                  I even see it on a few menus here in Minneapolis, of all places. Is it popular? It's not a word I would use, no. But foodies here know what it is, and one can find it if you look. So if you can find it here, it's not the bastard step child of fish dishes.

                2. Lime juice-marinated fish is popular in Fiji... it's called kokoda. Normally a fish with white flesh is used, and is marinated with lime juice, coconut milk, shallots or onions, salt and pepper. Cooked and chopped taro leaves are usually added as well. Sometimes you'll see diced tomato added, but how ever it is prepared, I've always enjoyed it...

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    Ceviche is pretty well known in the States. We used to make it to take to outdoor concerts back in the 80s. It shows up fairly often on upscale menus- I'd like to see it become more readily available, but it will never be as easy to eat as sushi.

                    1. re: Gypsyfish

                      Ditto. I'm a native Californian, and I've been aware of ceviche for at least 40 years. It's become pretty trendy the past few years with the influx of Peruvian and Nuevo Latino restaurants in the Bay Area.

                      You can also get decent ceviche at seafood-oriented taco trucks. I was a little skeptical the first time I ordered raw seafood (and it is raw -- marinating is not the same as cooking from the point of view of food safety) from a truck, but not anymore!

                      I think sushi is popular, among other things, because it's finger food, and the less-perishable rolls make a good, light "to go" meal. Ceviche is never going to fall into that category!

                  2. First had it mid 80's in Cozumel and like to go to the local seafood mart and get a sampling from their 6 different styles (So California) where it is a popular item (well along with raw sea urchin and oysters) so they have a consistent product. I also thinkis that the raw onion/shallot makes this a much more homestyle dish unlike what we perceive Italian crudo or Japanese sushi to be. Also from a logistical standpoint you have know you are going to serve a certain amount because you have to prep ahead of time, and it does not keep. Catch 22- until it is popular you can't have a consistent perfectly timed marinated fish dish because you don't sell enough.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: torty

                      Good point on the timing.

                      And a lot of people are still creeped out by what they perceive as raw fish.

                      1. re: torty

                        Torty is exactly correct. Ceviche does NOT keep. You have to marinate the fish or shellfish the proper amount of time and then that's it. Nothing worse than leftover ceviche. Ick! The stuff gets acid and rubbery. I used to serve it for large parties when we lived in Latin America and we tried everything - even scooping out the fish and cooking the marinated pieces. They tasted like over-marinated fish. Eww. This would be difficult for many restaurants.
                        BTW, not all ceviches are raw fish. Shrimp are cooked before they are used also some other shellfish. There's not a high "creep-out" factor at all.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          not a "creep-out factor" to you, but plenty of people think of it as raw, and won't order it. restaurants i've worked in offered ceviche specials, we had a hard time selling it. these were upscale places, with fairly sophisticated diners too.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            Maybe it depends on the area of the country and the style of the restaurant. If the clientele is familiar with Latin food or used to Latin fusion, they're likely to be more accepting. Climate plays a role too. I'm more likely to order it in Summer than other times of the year. Maybe it's just not a Boston thing. Could be lots of factors other than raw fish since people still love raw oysters, clams, tartar, carpacio, etc.

                          2. re: MakingSense

                            Cooked Shrimp is technically not Ceviche... its a misnomer used NOB. If you are ever in Mazatlan please try the Agua Chile... its a type of ceviche made from very, very fresh raw shrimp that is "marinaded" for a couple of minutes in a mixture of water, lime juice & piquin peppers... delicious!

                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                              EN, I don't have a dog in that fight. I don't have raw or cooked shrimp in it either. If you want to say that shrimp ceviche can only be done correctly the Mexican way with raw shrimp, you can take it up with the other countries that use cooked shrimp and that use other cooked seafood products as well. This is your battle, not mine.
                              I find good food, I eat and enjoy good food. I'm just telling you how I have found it, how other people have enjoyed it and prepared it traditionally for generations in other places. There isn't one single way of doing anything. That would be a boring world and we'd make a lot of enemies imposing our beliefs on others.

                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                I can get agua chile in Yuma also. I eat almost everything, but it was still weird to be consuming gray shrimp. But very tasty.

                          3. I've only ever lived in Texas and California, and it's really popular in both states.

                            In Texas it fits in on menus of seafood, south american, tex-mex and mexican places and I've had homemade ceviche served to me on numerous occasions. I've noticed in cali it is too bland, not spicy enough for me, and less liquidy, but I've only had it a few times here.

                            Where have you been going where people haven't heard of it? I could see it not being known anywhere inland or cold.