Every April ICE publishes a new issue of The Main Course, our school newsletter and recreational course catalog. In addition to containing over 900 new recreational cooking classes, it always includes a great article about a burgeoning food trend with input from the industry experts at ICE. For this issue, Editor Kiri Tannenbaum tackled the world of ceviche and the dish’s surging popularity. Here on DICED, we’re bringing you the article in two parts. First up, the history of ceviche and the spread of the dish from Peru to New York City.
Walk down any street in Lima and you are sure to come across ceviche — raw fish or seafood that has been ‘cooked’ in citrus juices. This popular food, also spelled seviche or cebiche, is Peru’s national dish and Latin America’s answer to sushi. Much like the sushi bars that dominate Tokyo, today there are over 2,000 cevicherias in Lima alone.
Ceviche is native to Peru, but its origins are up for debate. Some purport that ceviche dates back to the fourteenth century during the time of the Incas who had inhabited the land for hundreds of years. In this version, the Incans used available citrus fruits and salt in order to preserve their daily catch. However, according to Linda Civitello, author of Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People, it wasn’t until the Spanish conquistadors arrived nearly two hundred years later that the dish was born. In 1532, Francisco Pizzaro and his troops arrived to conquer the Americas. From 1540 to 1550, they brought foods from Spain and cultivated them in Peru’s soil. Grape vines, olive tree cuttings, figs, pomegranates, wheat, coconuts, and citrus fruits among other foods were planted. Yet a third belief is that ceviche came with a wave of Japanese immigration that began in 1899. Once in Peru, the Japanese adapted their traditional sashimi to include local ingredients and flavors.
Today, the storied yet simple dish can be found on menus all over South America, on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, in the Yucatan Peninsula, on the islands of the Caribbean, up the Eastern seaboard and all the way to the concrete jungle that is New York City. Like any other traditional dish, this one has been modified and modernized over time, but at its core the process for making ceviche remains the same. More…