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Controversies over the birthplace of certain dishes are part of the spice of life and landscape of any cuisine. A spirited discussion revolves around the origin of ceviches. This seafood favorite, made of raw fish and/or barely blanched shellfish marinated in citrus juices and laced with various adornments many maintain, was bestowed upon the world at large via ancient Peru.

Or not…

Perhaps the most romantic story holds that ceviche was invented so that an Incan emperor, high up in his Andean citadel in Cusco, could enjoy fresh fish despite his remote location from the sea. The fish, caught on the Peruvian coast, was first marinated in the tart juices of the native tumbo citrus fruit to preserve and flavor it, then carried by runners…

known as chasquis up to the hungry emperor.

Another story attributes the invention of ceviche to Peruvian fishermen, who would bring with them… tumbo juice infused with chile peppers. They would pickle some of their catch to feed themselves during their long stretches at sea.

Or maybe…it was Polynesian voyagers, traveling across the ocean to pre-Columbian Peru on wind-driven reed rafts, who introduced the notion of eating marinated raw fish; the custom was common in their Pacific island homes.

Peruvian food scholar Juan José Vega, who has studied the influence on Peruvian cuisine of the Moorish slave cooks who arrived with the Spanish nobility in the sixteenth century, offers yet another theory. In his version, the slaves introduced to Peru a dish called sei-vech, made of fish marinated in the juice of ceuta lemons, which they brought with them from the city of the same name out of North Africa… North East of Morocco and planted in the New World.

Working with Peruvians and visiting their markets and restaurants has given me a different understanding of the delicacy of a properly made ceviche: I used to think it should be made the night before it was eaten… or even longer… Instead, I now think of it more like sushi. Sushi and sashimi are, after all, eaten raw Many ceviches are best nearly so… learning is never ending…


© 2018, All Rights Reserved by Norman Van Aken

‘Salsa of Life’ reminds me of a Bloody Mary. It is Mexican origination. Many praise it for it’s restorative and refreshing powers. I make it as here and them finish it with whichever seafood I find to be the freshest and most alluring. I fold in cooked shrimp sometimes and raw diced conch others. You can do a combination if you like. Raw oysters are also another exciting idea. So here is the body of a ceviche. Now you can experiment with seafoods you like and that are at their peak of freshness.

Yield:  5 Cups

  • 1 large tomato, halved, seeds removed
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, halved, seeds removed
  • 2 red bell peppers, halved, seeds removed
  • 1 small Spanish onion, peeled and halved
  • 6 piquillo peppers, drained
  • 1 Cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ¼ Cup lemon juice
  • ½ Cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 Cup tomato juice
  • ¼ Cup sugar
  • 1-teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly toasted and ground black pepper
  • Tabasco, to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Place the tomato, jalapeño, bell peppers and onion, cut sides down, on the pan and roast until charred, about 30 minutes.
  3. Set aside to cool.
  4. Slip the skins off the tomato, jalapeño and peppers and put in a blender with the piquillo peppers, onion, juices, sugar, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.

The “Salsa of Life” can be made a day in advance and held covered in the refrigerator.