A bit of backstory about this particular recipe: I learned it thanks to the power of marketing years ago. Well, sort of. Once upon a time I worked for a student loan company. That company had sent me to a trade show called the Educational Travel Conference, or ETC, to present about international student health insurance. But times changed between the time I applied to speak and I actually got to the conference, and by that point I was working for a different company. Nonetheless, I carried on and presented about email marketing instead.
At the conference, the trade show floor could only be described as culinary magnificence. Many of the exhibitors were educational departments of embassies, and few things demonstrate a country’s cultural riches like native food. At the event, I grabbed what looked like a shot glass filled with… something… and I took a bite of the contents. It was magnificent – citrus, sour, salt, fresh herbs, and fish. I had no idea what it was so I asked the sous chef of the Chilean embassy who told me in halting English that it was called ceviche, a seafood dish popular in many South American countries. He said what made Chilean ceviche different was that only the Chileans used grapefruit juice, while other countries stuck to lemon or lime, and only Chilean ceviche used cilantro. I’ve no idea whether there’s any culinary truth to that particular origin story, but I don’t care, either: it’s delicious.
The recipe I found that day called for Chilean sea bass, a nice name for the Patagonian Toothfish (which is a marketing coup in its own right), but I find that tilapia makes for a better taste and texture. It’s entirely up to you which kind of white fish you use as long as it’s relatively mild in flavor. If you’re concerned about freshness and food safety, I recommend buying frozen tilapia filets. Here’s how you make it.
Finely dice/chop the following:
- 2 pounds tilapia – aim for 1 cm cubes
- 1 onion
- 1 cucumber
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- 1/2 cup cilantro
Put the following in a blender and blend on high until no visible solids remain:
- 2 cups white grapefruit juice
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- 1 jalapeño (add more if you like spicy)
Put the diced ingredients in a non-reactive container like a glass pitcher or high-sided bowl. Pour the blended juices over top until the fish is completely submerged. Refrigerate from 4 to 12 hours. During this time, the acid in the juices will “cook” the fish without hardening it, making it wonderfully tender to each. Serve in a glass, bowl, cup, or other non-reactive dish.
This is a wonderful dish any time of year, but it’s especially refreshing during the hot summer months when you want something that isn’t going to make you feel any warmer.
Want to read more like this from Christopher Penn? Get daily updates now: