Global Food Myths #10: Does acid cook the fish in a ceviche?

Luciano Grimaldi, Global Food Myths #10, Fish, Ceviche

LSG Group experts clarify food myths from around the world – Episode 10 is about “cooking” fish in a ceviche.

Peruvian cuisine is – quite literally – on everyone’s lips. The World’s 50 Best Restaurants ranks only one Parisian restaurant in its top 10 and two addresses in Lima in its 2019 list. Whether in haute cuisine or street food found on the streets of the capital, there is no way around Peru’s national dish, the ceviche. As many home chefs believe, fish is marinated in lime juice and cooked without heat. Luciano Grimaldi, Executive Chef at LSG Sky Chefs in Buenos Aires, Argentina, explains what really happens.

“Fish in a ceviche is indeed not completely raw,” he says. Rather, the natural acidity of the lime denatures the protein in the fish. The structure of the proteins changes in such a way that they lose their biological function. But the process depends on how the fish is cut: only with wafer-thin slices will the protein change be sufficient. In addition, the lowering of the pH value by adding acid makes the growth of bacteria in a Ceviche more difficult – similar to the pickling of cucumbers.

“In some recipes, it is recommended to let the fish steep in lime juice for 15 minutes. It should then have changed its texture,” says Grimaldi. The result is a different mouthfeel compared to the raw product, but an aroma that remains the same.

Whether the ceviche comes from Peru or another country in the region is controversial. Although the method of cooking with acidity was known prior, essential ingredients of modern recipes, such as limes and onions, only came to South America with the Spanish conquerors. Depending on the country, ceviche is prepared very differently today.

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