Exploring the secrets of the Best Ceviche Recipe in Mexico.
By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
CJ Travel Editor
PLAYA DEL CARMEN — I never met a ceviche I didn’t like.
In fact, when I’m in Mexico (as I am now) I subsist on a diet comprising nothing but. Tuna, shrimp, yellowtail … I’m a fan of any variety of the tangy fish and seafood specialty.
But, since the only thing I make for dinner is reservations, I never thought I could prepare it myself.
Not until I met Pedro Abascal, executive chef at Thompson Playa Del Carmen, a chic boutique hotel which opened in the Riviera Maya Beach town last November.
Chef Abascal, who’s responsible for the culinary offerings at the hotel’s three restaurants – the Mediterranean-inspired C Grill; and rooftop Cinco and Catch, which meld Mexican, French and Spanish flavors – hosted me for an interactive lunch today, during which he shared his secrets to preparing the traditional Peruvian dish which has been so enthusiastically adopted by Mexicans.
His first pearl of wisdom: White fish (such as snapper) is a better choice for making ceviche than oily varieties such as, say, tuna, which turns an unappealing shade of gray when it reacts with acidic citrus juices.
A generous dusting of salt (chef Abascal prefers local sea salt) is the foundation of ceviche seasoning. Massage it gently into chilled chunks of the white fish of your choice, and then it’s time to add the leche de tigre.
Translated literally as tiger’s milk, chef’s version of the marinade is a combination of lime and orange juices, black chili paste, ginger and onion, spiked with habanero.
Simply pour the leche de tigre over the salted fish; there’s no need to let it sit or marinate for any more than a minute. “Ceviche must be served fresh and chilled,” Abascal advises. “That way you preserve the delicate citrus flavors and the firmness of the fish.”
The crowning touch: a colorful garnish of whatever produce is in season. Today it’s sliced radishes, cherry tomatoes and Serrano peppers, which add a pop of color to the delectable dish. A drizzle of olive oil or chili oil is the finale, adding sheen or heat.
Mere minutes after chef began, I’m feasting on a fresh ceviche that’s more vividly flavorful and pleasingly textured than I’ve ever had before. Having watched Abascal make it myself, I realize now that making ceviche isn’t the complex culinary feat I’d imagined. All it takes is fresh white fish, 15 minutes of my time, and the confidence to try.
Now where’s that sea salt?