coconut cilantro ceviche
Well hello there. Coming at you with the three Cs today. Because is there really anything that doesn’t improve with the addition of coconut? Cocktails, cake (more on that tomorrow), cream pie, ice cream…I could go on.
There is something so evocative of balmy tropical shores when you combine creamy coconut, a hint of spice, a zing of lime and some ripe juicy mango. Just to remind you before you go all piña colada on me, this is a fish dish guys. Ceviche! The best and easiest fish dish because there is absolutely ZERO cooking. Just a bit of chopping, squeezing and mixing!
If you’ve never had ceviche before then let me introduce you. It is a popular fish dish in various parts of Latin America, but you’ve probably heard of it hailing from Peru or Mexico. The first time I saw it on a menu, I remember being fascinated by the concept of leche de tigre. This is the Peruvian name for the juices that the fish marinates in. Basically, ceviche is diced raw fish or shrimp, which is “cooked” in citrus juice, then mixed with other accoutrements like chiles, cilantro, red onion etc. The acid in the citrus juice “cooks” the fish so it no longer seems raw.
I wanted to jazz things up a bit, so I tried to hit all the bases: creamy, spicy, tangy, sweet, crunchy, soft. I always like to make sure there is something crunchy in there whenever I make ceviche. My go-to choices are apple, jicama or radish, paired with a softer fruit like mango, pineapple or peach. Here I just couldn’t resist the bright contrasting reds, oranges and greens. If colours can improve your mood, these sure will!
I like to grind the cilantro in a molcajete (or a regular pestle and mortar) with some flaky salt which helps break it down. This way you don’t get chopped up bits of cilantro stuck in your teeth, which is the absolute worst. And if pastel hues are your jam, then you’ll love the colour it turns your leche de tigre! In Peru, they sometimes serve a shot of the leche in a glass with the ceviche, which I think is a great idea. Just don’t force anyone to drink it!
You want to choose a nice firm white fish for this. I used grouper here but sea bass, bream, halibut or snapper would work well to. If you feel like splashing the cash, try scallops. Their flesh is creamy all on its own. And yes, I am that weirdo at the fish counter who stares longingly at super expensive shellfish and that oh-so-white Chilean sea bass.
So you just need to cut your fish into small cubes, about half an inch, and let them chill out in a healthy dose of lime juice for a while. 20 minutes let’s say, about as long as it takes to prep the other bits and set the table. Perfect quick weeknight meal that is full of protein and low in fat. Some people worry about weird things in their raw fish, bacteria and the like. If this is really a concern of yours (which it needn’t be so long as your fish is super fresh), then pop it in the freezer overnight. Leave it out to thaw for a few hours until it is semi-defrosted, then cube it. It is actually WAY easier to cube it when it is a bit more solid like that. So if you are a real precision cutter who likes perfect little cubes, give this method a go!
Then go to town. Really go all out. Add a whole rainbow of deliciousness. These perfect little red beauties are actually home-grown serranos (not grown by me, before you ask). So a thank you is due to my boyfriend’s brother, who is much more green fingered than I. If you want, you could also dish up all the accoutrements into little bowls and serve them at the table so people can mix up their own ideal combo.
Now, finally, how to eat it. If you’re not already halfway through the bowl with a spoon by now, then let me suggest a couple of things. The jicama I mentioned earlier? You can cube it for more crunch, but I like it sliced thin on the mandoline, then you can use it a bit like a tortilla chip to scoop up the fish. Delicious, crunchy, fresh and virtually calorie free. Or just use tortilla chips. They’re yummy too.
- Serves: 4
- Cooking time: 30 mins
- 1.5 lb firm white fish (I used grouper)
- juice of 4 limes
- 1/4 cup cilantro
- 2 tsp salt (I like Maldon)
- 2 tbsp coconut cream (see notes)
- 1 serrano, slices
- 1/2 cup cubed mango
- To serve:
- 1/4 of a jicama, sliced thin on a mandoline
- tortilla chips, if desired
- Dice the fish into half inch cubes, and pour over the lime juice. Stir to combine and set aside in the fridge for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, grind the cilantro in a molcajete or pestle and mortar with 1 tsp of salt (either flaky or kosher, not table salt) until a smooth paste forms.
- Combine the coconut cream with the cilantro paste.
- When the 20 minutes is up, the fish should look opaque and white, a noticeable change from its raw state.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fish into a bowl with the coconut cilantro paste, mango and chile. Stir to combine, then add back in 1/8 to 1/4 cup of the lime juice marinading liquid, depending on how tangy you like it.
- Alternatively, leave out the mango and chile and serve at the table allowing people to create their own combination.
- Serve with the jicama and/or tortilla chips.
If you leave a can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight, then open it without shaking, the cream will be at the top. This is what you want to scoop out and use, save the water for a smoothie.