You say tomato, I say tomahto. We say ceviche, Peruvians say cebiche. In Peru ceviche/cebiche rules supreme.
Apart from its omnipresence, the defining flavour in Peruvian ceviche/cebiche is its evocatively named marinade, leche de tigre. Since time eternal, Peruvian men have devoured heaping plates of ceviche/cebiche and then taken their plates in both hands and gulped down the remains, believing that the so-called tiger’s milk gave them superhuman vigor and sexual prowess. The notion (coupled with the fact that it’s damn delicious) became so popular that cevicherias started serving leche de tigre on its own as a shot or full glass.
When we first rolled into Lima, we didn’t know it was the norm but were instinctively drawn to drain our plates. Odd as it sounds, the fishy, limy, runny cream really draws you in.
Peruvian ceviche/cebiche includes all the basics (fresh fish, salt, lime, black pepper, chile pepper (traditionally aji limo), garlic, and onion). But the “leche” aspect of leche de tigre gets a little controversial. Every chef has an opinion on what makes the best marinade and therefore the best leche de tigre. For some evaporated milk is the way to go. Others say that puréeing the lime, garlic, fish stock, and onion is enough to create the desired milky effect. (Using fish stock is an equally contested subject that we fully support—it adds silky body to the marinade giving it a stand alone quality.)
There are as many ways to make Peruvian ceviche/cebiche with leche de tigre as there are ways to skin a tiger. Here’s one we think showcases the milk/fish stock argument in a pretty convincing light.
Let us know where you weigh in on the great debate!
Peruvian Ceviche/Cebiche with Leche de Tigre
- .5 kilograms fresh fish filet (sole, fluke, flounder)
- 120 millilitres of fresh squeezed lime juice
- 3 teaspoons of salt
- black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon of aji limo or aji rocoto, minced
- 1 onion, minced
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 bunch of cilantro (coriander), rough chopped
- 2 tablespoons evaporated milk
- 6 tablespoons fish stock (white fish stock)
Peruvian Ceviche is always served with:
- cooked sweet potato or yam, cut into round medallions
- choclo, Peruvian corn boiled with a touch of sugar and lime, then cut off the cob
- red onion for garnish, Julienne and rinsed in cold water
- chancha (roasted Peruvian corn nuts)
Squeeze limes into a bowl and strain. Mince red chili, garlic, cilantro and parsley. Cut onion in half and Julienne. Put aside.
Remove skin and spines from fish filet. Cut into ½ inch cubes. Place fish in a bowl, add salt and lime juice, stir and let rest a minute. Add 6 tbs fish stock, chili, garlic, cilantro, and parsley, stir. Add evaporated milk, stir again and taste the marinade. Add chili to taste.
Heap ceviche in the serving dish center. Cut sweet potato into 1cm slices, and place in one corner of serving dish. Remove kernels from corn cob and place in another corner. Sprinkle chancha generously on top.
To make extra Leche de Tigre: Blend two celery sticks together with 3 pieces of the raw fish, 6 tablespoons of fish broth and 2 tablespoons evaporated milk until you have an airy marinade. Pass through a strainer and add it to the fish. Stir and add more chili to taste.
Read about our other favourite Lima cevicherias here.