The world’s best street food
Over the next three days travel bible, Lonely Planet, will be sharing the best street eats across the globe with CD-Traveller readers. Today: Ceviche de Corvina (PACIFIC COAST, PERU)
Ceviche de Corvina (PACIFIC COAST, PERU)
Combining the marinated fish and chilli peppers that the Inca would have known, zesty Spanish-introduced citrus and a revolutionary makeover from a Peruvian-Japanese chef, Peru’s national dish is the ultimate fusion cuisine
What is it?
Corvina, a Pacific sea bass, is marinated in lime juice (and thus ‘cooked’ by the citrus acid) along with onion, chilli peppers and garlic. It’s served with sweet potato and corn-on-the-cob chunks. Hey presto: ceviche Peru-style. Adapted by many nations, rivalled by none.
The Inca marinated fish to cook them, but used chicha, a fermented corn drink, rather than citrus. Spanish conquistadors brought the limes that became bona fide ceviche marinade. Corvina, prevalent on Peru’s coast, became traditionally used. Japanese-Peruvian chef Dario Matsufuji shook up a century-old recipe and reduced marinating time from hours to minutes in the 1970s, which enhanced the taste and became the preparation method to emulate.
The sharp, light kick of the lime, the crunch of red onions and the fiery red-yellow of speciality Peruvian chilli pepper ají limo mingle with the taste of soft white corvina as it breaks into chunks in your mouth. Then your palate grasps the sweet potato and the clumps of corn that counterbalance the feisty, citrusy fish with an earthiness that reminds you what a unique thing ceviche de corvina is in a country where most street snacks are heavy and carbohydrate-dominated. If you’re hungry and hot in coastal Peru, this is what you need with your beer. Unlike many street foods, presentation of ceviche de corvina is also key. The onion-and-chilli-pepper garnish, along with a dash of coriander, sits on top of the fish, encircled by the sweet potato, corn clumps and occasional hunks of avocado. Proper ceviche is an assault on the eyes as well as the taste buds.
Start with the best in Lima at cebicherias (ceviche eateries) such as Barranco’s Canta Rana. Expect to pay 10/25 Peruvian nuevo sol (US$3/8) at a vendor/midrange cebicheria.
Ceviche pops up across Latin America and a close relation graces Japanese menus, but Peru is the ceviche granddaddy, with even a national holiday in honour of the lime-dowsed fish. Ecuador concocts a soupier take on ceviche de corvina with tomatoes and salted popcorn. Within Peru, Lima folk use sole over corvina, Trujillo further north has shark ceviche and in the Amazon the river fish dorade makes a delicious version of the dish.