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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?

More info on my blog here: http://tinyurl.com/29v2as

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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.

                            1. I forgot to mention something related to this thread.... Brannan's in Calistoga does an interesting take on Ceviche. Its scallops marinated in lime... what a surprise... but the difference is that it is heavily draped in old world spices like basil, oregano, sage etc., Its probably the most successful fancied up version of Ceviche i've had north of the border (and that includes the Rick Bayless' place... and other big hitters).

                              1. i don't know why it's not more popular, but it is very good. i was in Peru on sunday and for lunch i had ceviche at a joint called Punto Azul. very good stuff. so fresh. i didn't drink the tiger's milk though.

                                1. Here in South Florida ceviche is known and loved. We have a number of Peruvian seafood restaurants that include ceviche on the menu, often accompanied by choclo (corn on the cob) and sweet potato, as it's typically eaten.

                                  A good ceviche place in Coconut Grove, named Jaguar, offers its different types of ceviches in 'chupes' which are huge spoons. Diners can order multiple chupes and their sauces to try different ceviche experiences.

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: diablita FL

                                    A Peruvian ceviche has to have: a chunk of orange sweet potato, a finger of deep fried cassava, a section of corn (choclo) on the cob, a large leaf of lettuce under the ceviche, chopped red chile (not too picante), and served with chicha morada!

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      It's common in Texas. Austin now has a Brazilian place and a couple of pan-South American restaurants with ceviche, and then there are the Mexican ones.

                                      Nobody's mentioned Hawaiian poke, which is a raw fish dish marinated in lime juice.

                                      1. re: diva360

                                        Interesting that you mention poke... I did have it my last trip to Honolulu... it was quite delicous. As some of you might know there has been a huge controversy about the origins of Ceviche.... the Peruvians & Ecuadorians are willing to go to war over it. Some scholars point to Polynesia... others point to Iberia (based on the availability of Limes).

                                        Of course with all the new genetic testing there is a growing belief that Latin America was partly populated by Polynesian peoples PRIOR to Columbus. If they could make it to Easter Island.... why not all the way, goes one of the theories. In Mexico... there is growing evidence for an Australian aboriginal connection.... as recent genetic testing shows a much higher percentage of "African" genes on West Coast populations without any history of slavery (Jalisco, Michoacan, Sinaloa).... and because those same people can't exactly trace those African genes to modern African populations suggesting a much more ancient connection... coinciding with the era in which the aborigines settled in Australia / Papa New Guinea etc.,

                                        Anyway the point is that there could be an ancient connection among the dishes. As I mentioned before there is solid evidence that pre-hispanic Mesoamericans were curing fish in vinegars made from Pineapple (still the most common homemade vinegar in Mexico), Honey wines etc.,

                                        It may also just be that the tropics are prime territory for sweet, fatty raw fish dressed up in acids & aromatics all around the globe.

                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                          Eat Nopal, that is very interesting; I was including poke as an also ran in my post, not as a possible competitor in the initiator of a raw fish dish. I guess I was thinking that tropical locations led to the preparation of fish dishes "cooked" in citrus.

                                        2. re: diva360

                                          Poke generally doesn't contain any acidic ingredients, and "should not be confused with raw fish dishes such as ceviche, ika ota, or kinilaw, which use vinegar or citrus juice to coagulate the fish proteins and chemically "cook" the fish." http://www.mind42.com/wiki/Poke_%28cu...

                                          In fact, pre-contact Hawai'ian cuisine didn't have much in the way of acids at all; the pineapple wasn't introduced until 1813, so pineapple vinegar wasn't really an option.

                                          Love ceviche, and love poke, but IMO they're apples and oranges.

                                        3. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                          Sam, that sounds like a good way to make a whole meal from ceviche, and with some eye appeal. I wish Peruvian style empanadas -meat, fish, and fruit - were more widely available.

                                          1. re: Veggo

                                            it is a good way, but i'm not to sure about the chicha morada. i also wish the peruvian style empanadas were more widely available. i had at least 5 over the 1.5 days I was there before heading off to cusco.

                                            1. re: phant0omx

                                              Chich morada is not fermented and alcoholic, just a refresco perfect with ceviche.

                                          2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            chunk of orange sweet potato, check, finger of deep fried cassava, missing, section of corn, check, lettuce, missing, red chile, check and very good...

                                            chicha morada, i dunno about. is it the fermented corn drink with some sweet strawberry added? it's got some alcohol in it from the fermentation?

                                            1. re: phant0omx

                                              Sorry, see above. Made from dark/purple grained maize, no fermentation, no strawberrry, just a bit of sugar.

                                        4. The first time I tasted ceviche was ~25 years ago in a Juarez restaurant (a very nice one, not a hole-in-the-wall; can't recall the name), and it so was incredibly delicious I ordered it the next 3 times I saw it on the menu in Dallas restaurants. All were so bland, so inferior to that first one, that I've never ordered it again anywhere.

                                          If I'd tried the blah ones before the Juarez one, I might have had the gumption to ask Juarez for their recipe. As it is I've crossed ceviche off my list.

                                          (But if I'd had the blah ones first I'd have never ordered it in Juarez. Can't win.)

                                          1. Good question. I'm in Boston and I used to see it in restaurants a lot back in the '80s, but since then it seems to have gone out of style. Then again, I used to make it myself back then too and haven't done so in years. Thanks for reminding me of a nice cool summer dish! We're having a heat wave at the moment (90°+, = 35°C), my family will love it!

                                            1. When Anthony Bourdain did "No Reservations" Peru episode, he was in a place having a ceviche dish he loved, but his guide indicated something to the effect that ceviche was just not popular with the younger generation there, and the clientele bore that out.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: MsDiPesto

                                                Good question, ourman, if you're still here.

                                                I don't have too many dining companions who like sushi, so I can't remember if they also like ceviche. EVERYone else I dine with, woe is me, turn up their noses at both sushi and ceviche.

                                                Their loss, of course, but it is interesting that ceviche is not as popular as sushi.

                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                    I'm guessing that dolores is using "sushi" in the generic American way that implies raw fish, even though, of course, you are correct.

                                              2. One of the more startling food experiences in Cahuita, Costa Rica was the guy walking up and down the beach, shouting "CeVEEchay", and selling it, from a cooler.
                                                We stifled our fears and ate some. Delicious, and no ill effects.
                                                The same guy at other times sold Pipas ("Peeepahs!")-- green coconuts with a hole, a straw sticking out. "Good for your manly," we were told.