The first time I had ceviche was in a small cantina in Merida, Mexico (Yucatan) back in 1987. Three beers for 1000 pesos (less than a dollar) and free botanas (Yucatecan snacks) kept coming out of the small kitchen as long as you were paying for drinks. There were some of the standards including taquitos but I had never seen, let alone tasted, ceviche. They served two varieties, fish and conch. Both were excellent. After marinating for so long the conch had the texture of chicken breast with 100 times the flavor.
When I got home I told all of my friends how delicious both types of ceviche were. They seemed confused, some even disgusted. “Raw fish marinated in citrus juice? How could you eat that?” When I made some for one of my backyard barbeques they changed their tune.
Twenty years later, ceviche is all the rage in California and NYC. Little did I realize that this cantina snack would acquire a reputation similar to sushi as well as demanding a hefty price tag in trendy restaurants.
Here is my variation of ceviche. It isn’t totally true to the version I had in that cantina (they used a white fish) but it always gets great reviews from friends and guests.
Two or Three large Ahi Tuna steaks
10-12 Limes or Lemons
Cilantro (how much is up to you. I love the stuff)
One Small or Medium Onion (preferable Vidalia, Maui, or some other sweet onion)
One or Two tomatoes
Jalapenos (how many? Depends on how hot you like it! I generally use two to three, depending on how hot they are. If you want it more mild, remove the seeds and ribs.)
One or Two Avocados (Preferable Haas, the one with bumpy skin)
Salt and Fresh Pepper to taste
1) Juice the lemons or limes into a large glass bowl.
2) Cut the tuna into small square pieces, about ½ inch by ½ inch. You don’t want it much smaller than that. Put those in the bowl with the citrus juice.
3) Dice the onion and jalapenos and place in the bowl with juice and tuna.
4) You’ll want to let this mixture marinate overnight, at least twelve hours but not more then twenty. The tuna will change color from red to white. Some people marinate it in the bowl but I pour the mixture out into a plastic bag to make sure the juices are distributed evenly. You don’t need a special bag. The sort that you put your vegetables in at the supermarket will do just fine.
5) After the fish has marinated pour the mixture into a serving dish. Depending on how much juice you have there will either be no liquid in the bag (preferable) or a lot of liquid. If there is a lot of liquid, poor it off before you place the mixture in the serving dish.
6) Dice the tomato and chop the cilantro and mix this into your fish/citrus/onion/jalapeno mixture before serving.
7) Top it off with chunks of Haas avocado.
8 ) Salt and Pepper to taste. You may not need any salt so taste it first.
How you serve it is up to you. Some people like it on a tostada shell (preferably home made) or tortilla chips (again, much better homemade) but my favorite is on top of a Saltine cracker. That’s the way they served it in Merida. If you want it a bit more spicy, put a couple of dashes of Tapatio hot sauce on it. Nothing but Tapatio will do for me.
You’ll want something to drink with this and I recommend an ice cold Mexican beer. I prefer Modelo Especial (in the bottle). A bit more substance than Corona or Tecate but not so heavy that you can’t taste the wonderful flavors of the ceviche.
PS: This needs to be eaten in one sitting. It does not keep well at all. So make sure you invite some friends over. As far as the number of servings, that depends on how hungry your guests are!