A quick, easy, and insanely delicious ceviche recipe that leaves you feeling great, even in a bathing suit.
No, we’re not in Lima. But here in Playa Sámara, we are on the ceviche diet Costa Rican style. We live on the Pacific side of the Nicoya Peninsula where there is no shortage of fresh, local fish and shrimp.
Every afternoon around 4:00 pm (and not a minute thereafter we’ve learned the hard way), a dozen or so fishing boats come ashore on the far east end of Playa Sámara. Families at the little houses near the landing immediately break down the daily catch. The community quickly swoops up the best, and the rest goes directly from bucket to freezer (in at least one house, freezing is the sole refrigeration system). Contrary to many aspects of Tico life, here you need to be early; 30 minutes late, and you’re stuck buying from a family that might not have the best pescador connections or knife skills. To buy your fish whole, your timing needs to be perfect, but the range is beautiful: Marlin, Sailfish, Tuna, Mahi Mahi, Corvina, Wahoo, Snapper, various sizes of shrimp, and some days spiny lobster.
For us, pretty much every day delivers a homemade bowl of ceviche or a bowl of guacamole for lunch. To this recipe, I’ve added some local gems:
Chile Panama (aka scotch bonnet chiles) my first time working with these guys. Grown locally and almost as hot as a Habanero (100,000 – 375,00 scoville heat units), when fire roasted, skin peeled, and seeds removed they retain good heat, but the roasting process releases their sweetness. Just wear gloves if you have them while handling—I did not, and my hands were on fire for 24-hours. (if using Habanero, you probably only need two)
Wild Cilantro (aka culantro silvestre) the locals swear by it for ceviche. It tastes almost identical to the cilantro commonly used in the U.S., but is a much more hardy plant, and therefore requires a very fine dice. Every family around here has a bunch growing in their garden.
Limón Mandarina (aka some sort of rangpur limes?) These limes are incredible (note their orange tinge in the above photo). They taste like a lime but have the sugary sweet finish of a Mandarine. Delicious.
Note: Typical Costa Rican ceviche includes a very interesting ingredient, ginger ale. While I’m still experimenting with the sweet stuff, I prefer a more savory approach.
- 8 limes, juiced
- 1/2 kilo Wahoo loin, cut to preference (marlin, corvina, and shrimp make great substitutes; mix fish and shrimp together for Ceviche Mixto!)
- 1/2 red onion, sliced thin
- 3 chile Panama, fire roasted, skin & seeds removed, diced fine
- 1/2 bunch cilantro, fine chopped
- 1 orange or mandarine, juiced
- 2 firm, ripe avocados, medium diced
Squeeze your limes through a strainer into a bowl; put aside. Dice, slice, or chop your fish or shrimp into your desired bight size. (I prefer a medium-small dice because I like to experience the texture of the fish while eating it. That said, some of the best ceviche I have had here has just been a very rough chop throughout. The smaller you dice the fish the quicker it will cook in the lime juice). Put your fish into the lime juice. and let marinate, covered, in the fridge until JUST turning opaque throughout. Usually this takes anywhere between 30–50 mins (depending on the size of the cut).
In the meantime, roast, peel, remove the seeds, and dice your Panama chiles (I had done this for about 20 chiles days ahead of time, they will last for a week or so after roasting, and I’ve been adding them to this and that). Thin slice your red onion, soak it in cold water for 5 mins, drain and set aside. Fine chop your cilantro, and put aside.
Once your fish/shrimp has reached done-ness in its marinade, drain 1/2 of the lime juice. Add the onion, chile, half the cilantro, and juice 1/2 an orange or mandarine into the bowl. Mix well. Return to fridge for another 30 min. Mix occasionally.
Remove bowl from fridge. Add remaining cilantro and avocados mix well. Adjust seasoning with salt and lime juice to taste. Serve with corn chips.