Tilapia Ceviche

This is our very first recipe together!  Oooh, isn’t that exciting!  Are you just trembling with anticipation?  I KNOW I AM!!  Alright, so let us start by talking about ceviche.  Here is a conversation I had with Mike.

Tina:  “I’m going to make CEVICHE for dinner tomorrow!  How’s that sound?”

Mike:  “Sure!  That sounds good!  Uh….what’s ceviche?”

Tina, with an exasperated sigh:  “You know, it’s…..CEVICHE!”

Note:  This answer was not particularly well received.  I don’t know why.

So for you, here is a rather better developed description of ceviche.  It is a dish that is popular in many Latin American countries, and basically it’s like a seafood salad which is marinated in citrus juices.  Technically it is uncooked, but if you’re squeamish about sushi don’t worry – the acid in the citrus juice effectively denatures the protein in the seafood and you can see the meat move from translucent to opaque as your fishies ‘cook’ and firm up in their lemony lime bath of goodness. 

It should also be noted that there is great variation in the types of ceviche (or seviche….or cebiche…) that you can find, and some regions garnish it with corn or pickled onions,  and even the consistency varies from a chunky salad to almost soupy where you eat it with a spoon.  One thing that they all have in common is that they sure are delicious!!!!

You can use almost any old fish or seafood for ceviche, but a thicker meaty white fish (like halibut), shrimp and scallops are the most popular.  I chose to use tilapia for the following reasons:

  • Halibut was $4.69/100 g and tilapia was only $2.20/100 g
  • I love the mild tasting firm white flesh of fresh tilapia
  • There is no third reason. I even had to stretch for the second. Tilapia is a good fish and it’s cheaper, plain and simple.

Please, please, please buy the freshest fish you can.  If you have a fishmonger, go pay them a visit!  Fishmongers like company.  If, however, you are like me and you live in the suburbs, go up to the seafood counter of your local chain grocery store and ask the incredibly unhappy kid who has to work behind it when they bring in their fresh fish.  When he says, “DAILY!” give him a knowing look and a nod and say, “When do you REALLY bring in the fish?”  If necessary, show a bit of skin if only in the interest of eliciting an honest response.  Job security is worth far less to this kid than cleavage.  Anyway, my local brings in fresh fish on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday so…..I would go on one of those days.  Not Monday.  Never, ever on Monday.  Sigh.

Tilapia Ceviche

This dish will serve about 3 people (or 2 starving people, or people who really like it, or me) as a main course, or 5-6 as an appetizer.

Time:  30 minutes + 6 hours (or overnight) to marinate

  • 3 boneless skinless tilapia filets
  • ¼ red onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ red pepper
  • ½ green pepper
  • ½ orange pepper
  • 1- 2 lemon
  • 5-7 limes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Bunch of fresh cilantro *
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • season to taste

 * If you don’t have fresh cilantro do not use dried!  Just…just don’t make the dish.  FINE, okay, use parsley instead, but only if you must.  And I will judge you.

And with that, I have lied to you already.  I’m really quite wicked.  I would generally use a jalapeno pepper, seeded and ribbed, cut into a tiny tiny dice, which is why it is indicated in the recipe.  But… the LCBO was about to close when I was out shopping, and I wanted to get some wine, and well… sometimes things get forgotten.  In the pictures you will see Tabasco sauce which I used instead out of necessity.  So just pretend that the recipe says:

  •   1 jalapeno pepper OR Tabasco sauce

First cut up the fish into nice chunks.  Not too big, and not too small.  HA!  I know, I know, that’s why there’s a picture.

Try to make the pieces all about the same size so that they cure evenly.  Cut up the peppers into a relatively small dice, about ¼ inch or smaller.  Ditto for the onions, and try to do these finely.

Get your juicing arm ready!  You need a lot of citrus juice.  The amount will vary according to how juicy your fruit is.  I lucked out and got heavy ripe lemons and limes so I ended up using about 1 lemon and 5 limes.  You will want the better part of a cup of juice, or think of it as enough juice to just cover all of the other ingredients in the bowl. If you have knife skills, mince your three cloves of garlic.  If you’re lazy like me and you’d rather only spend 30 seconds doing this so you can move onto something else, use a rasp or finely grate it.

That’s it!  Refrigerate the mixture for about 6 hours or overnight, stirring once in a while if possible. 

When you wake up in the morning with a bit of a foggy head from the wine that you drank the night before, and you remember that you also forgot to buy a jalapeno pepper (sigh), find the Tabasco and don’t forget your fresh cilantro!

I used about 8 dashes of Tabasco but you can do it to taste.  The same goes for the jalapeno and I would probably use the whole thing, but you can use more or less depending on how caliente you like things.  Finely chop about ¼ bunch (or roughly 2 tbsp when chopped) or fresh cilantro, stems and all!  I love the stems.  They’re my favorite.  Mix this into the rest of the ceviche, and if you want to add salt and/or pepper do it now.  I added a little bit of salt.

Now, this part is very important.  Wander around for about half an hour while your new ingredients incorporate into their new home.  NOW DRAIN THE CEVICHE!  Get rid of most of that leftover citrus fish juice.  Only keep enough juice that the fish is moist, but get rid of as much as possible, even pressing gently to get more out.  Trust me, there’s a lot more than you think.  Finally, dress it with the olive oil and give it another toss.

To plate the ceviche, I like to make a fan of avocado slices (delicious creaminess against the strong flavors of the dish!) and pile the salad on top.  Garnish with a little bit more fresh cilantro, stack up some tortilla chips on the side (to scoop up all the yumminess – these are viable utensils!) and dig in.

Let me know if you try it, and what you think!

Theme song for this dish:  Cesaria Evora, Besame Mucho OR Sodade.

  • Pingback: Mojo Chicken with Avocado Mango Salsa()

  • mike

    Just wanted to say this is the best written recipe i’ve read so far. Not having too much to do with the dish, but it kept me reading because of the sheer “corny-ness”. Good job in making this dish fun!

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Aw, thank you Mike!! I’m so glad that you stopped by and enjoyed it!!

  • Pingback: Choosy Beggar Gravalax | Choosy Beggars()

  • dee

    so you do cook to tilapia or you dont?

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Hi Dee – no, you don’t cook the tilapia with heat. You denature the proteins (like a curing process) using the acid from the citrus. No stove required!

      • dee

        thanks!.. i just had this last weekend at a authentic mexican restraunt and love it.. !!

  • http://choosybeggars Pam

    Made this yesterday and enjoyed your recipe. , Although I have read several other recipes and from my limited knowledge of the effects of acid on fish, I only let the fish “cook” for a few hours in the acid bath. Having done this, I cannot say that continuing the cooking process would have improved the flavor or texture.

    I will save this recipe, with the knowledge that it can be served in a few hours.


    • karen

      is it safe to leave tilapia soaking in lemon out over night?

      • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

        No, not really. Though the acid in the lemon is enough to denature the protein in the fish, it isn’t enough to keep the meat sterile. It’s far preferable to keep it in the fridge, to protect against any bacteria.