Down in Peru, limes are synonymous with ceviche, made is with the small green and extremely acid "limon sutil", which no Peruvian can do without.
Ceviche is our national dish, the most emblematic, it fills us with pride. We will bristle if anyone so much as hints that it's not 100% Peruvian. Every locality and household has their own way of preparing it; whole books have been written on the subject by studious gourmets and anthropologists. Methods and formulas for the ultimate ceviche abound, details vary but we all agree on one thing: our limes are the key ingredient.
One would think that limon sutil is a Peruvian native, but it's not. Ancient Peruvians used green, unripe maracuya to prepare ceviche before the Spanish "Moras" brought the first lime trees. The Moors had previously introduced this extremely acid African lime to Spain, but it didn't do so well there because it needed scorching sun all year round. The ideal soil and climate conditions were found in Peru's northern coast. With the constant supply of fresh limon sutil and fantastic pacific ocean fish, things only improved.
I would like to share my method:
- Cut a freshly caught white fish into small flattish squares and place in a glass dish (a pie dish is perfect).
- Sprinkle with some real salt, (not the stuff that pours out of a carton).
- Halve and remove the seeds of a few limes, squeeze their juice over the fish. Use your hands, never those metal contraptions. (Here I must insist that you only use Peruvian limes, no other lime has the same flavor or is acid enough.) Mexican limes come close though. The moment the fish starts to "cook" in the lime juice you must add a couple of ice cubes, otherwise the lime juice will be overpowering and the flavor of the fish will be lost.
- Add a tiny garlic clove, finely chopped, some previously washed red onion cut "ala plume", a pinch of fresh cilantro and some finely chopped "aji limo".
- Accompany with slices of sweet potato, choclo (corn), and cancha (toasted corn). Eat at once.