“As the wife of a Belgian diplomat I lived in Colombia until recently. There, my local friends introduced me to a fantastic delicacy, totally unknown to me before: ceviche.
Ceviche, more and more the new “in” food of the beginning of the 21st century, has been one of South America’s best-kept secret for centuries, but it is now becoming worldwide a popular dish and will be gaining popularity as the century progresses.
What is ceviche? It is often spelled seviche or cebiche, depending on which part of South America it originates from. Ceviche is fish or seafood prepared in a centuries old method of cooking by contact with acidic juice of citrus instead of heat. The preparation and consumption of ceviche is now already almost a religion in parts of South and Central America and Mexico, and it seems as though there are as many varieties of ceviche now as people who appreciate it. It can be eaten as a first course or main dish, depending on what is served with it.
The chemical process that occurs when the acid of the citrus comes in contact with the fish is similar to what happens when the fish is cooked, and the flesh becomes opaque and firm. Indeed, many people refer to the preparation with juice as “cooking” the fish, although there is absolutely no heat involved.
The technique of ceviche “cooking” probably originated in Peru where the culinary tradition of the immigrants from Spain (Salpicon) met with that of the numerous immigrants in that country from Japan (sashimi).
Colombia was one of the first neighbour countries to be seduced by the preparation and, with its endless coastline of more than 3000 km and its already very developed fish gastronomy, soon started to prepare and improve ceviche in thousands of varieties.
I was lucky to have some Colombian friends who introduced me into the intricacies of a series of ceviche preparations and I also took a cours at a culinary academy in Bogota to improve my style.”