Back in 2008, Bon Apetit magazine published an article by Daniel Duane that declared Lima the gastronomical capital of South America. This comes as no surprise according to Arturo Rubio, owner and chef at the famed Huaca Pucllana restaurant in Miraflores; the article reads:
“Every great culinary tradition on earth owes a debt to Peru. “No chocolate in Switzerland,” he cries, laughing at himself now. “No potatoes in Ireland.” Pausing to gulp a Peruvian beer, he nearly spits his next line with glee: “The Irish would’ve starved. New York would have no cops. My God, it was Portuguese traders who brought South American chiles to the Asian subcontinent; there would be no curry in India. No spices in Thailand!”
Duane may seem overly excited by his native cuisine, but is no stretch to declare that Perú has influenced global cuisine in a big way; the potato, sweet potato, and avocado all originally began in Perú. Perú is the world’s second largest fish exporter (behind China) and many of Lima’s most famous dishes are centered around that access to seafood; certainly that includes Perú’s most famous dish: ceviche.
It is essentially a spicy, raw fish salad with salt, garlic, onions, and hot Peruvian peppers, all mixed together and marinated in lime. The lime denatures the protein, giving the fish a slightly cooked texture. Within Perú there are many variations on the recipe; depending on the recipe, your ceviche could include a touch of milk, passion fruit, orange juice, celery, and many other ingredients. It is usually garnished with a slice of lettuce leaf and accompanied by canchita–kernels of corn–and sweet potato.
Cevicherias–restaurants dedicated to centering their menu around ceviche–are located all over Lima and the rest of Perú. These restaurants are usually only open during the day for lunch, as Peruvians tend to believe that eating cold fish at night can make you sick.
Fish is not the only ingredient that can be used for Peruvian ceviche. In Northern Perú it is common to find black-oyster ceviche, mixed seafood ceviche, and crab and lobster ceviche. In the Andes it is no surprise to find trout ceviche and, at your own risk, chicken ceviche.