If you’re at all familiar with South America, and we assume that you’re a foodie if you’re reading this, then you’re probably already familiar with Peruvian cuisine. Peru is like the France of Latin America; it is widely agreed that Peru is the culinary capital of the continent, and for very good reason. The country’s flagship gastronomic delight is ceviche. Ceviche is essentially raw fish cooked in the citrus of lemons or limes. “Leche de Tigre”, or Tiger’s Milk, is the liquid byproduct of that preparation.
Peruvian ceviche beats out Chilean ceviche to the south. It also beats out Mexican ceviche as far as we’re concerned. It’s not too difficult to understand why, either! Peruvians use better fish, they mix in things like aji, onions and sweet potato, and the whole dish is very wet and therefore fuller of taste.
Peruvian cuisine has skyrocketed to fame on the world stage, and not in any small part thanks to the national chef-hero, Gaston Acurio. He is a strong proponent of bringing Peruvian gastronomy to the world, and he’s a very powerful orator. We’d like to think he gets his confidence, above all, from ceviche (and maybe his disposition is aided by a few pisco sours).
What is in Ceviche?
Peruvian ceviche typically uses a number of different species of fish. Flounder, sea bass and sole are among them, but the most popular might be “perico”, or Mahi Mahi. Mahi Mahi is found in great quantities in the Pacific, and so Peru is daily supplied with a fresh catch in the markets.
The fish is chopped into chunks and placed into a bowl with chopped onions, yellow aji (a hot pepper of Peru), red onion, and lemon or lime juice. Salt and pepper are added to taste. The ceviche cooks in the citrus, and is then placed on a dish beside slices of boiled sweet potato, a collection of canchitas (baked corn kernels), and topped with boiled corn kernels and sometimes edible seaweed.
There are plenty of variations on this basic standard. Chefs have added oil, cilantro, other spices, garlic, Chinese onions and boiling hot water.
Why Tiger’s Milk?
The liquid byproduct, or leche de tigre, is called “milk” for its color, which is a result of mixing with the other ingredients. Sometimes cow’s milk is added, and this gives a sweet aspect to the taste.
Leche de tigre is not only served as ceviche but also independently. It is a relatively recent idea, one Limenian man having decided to sell the leche de tigre separately.
The same process to cook ceviche is conducted, the only difference being the amount of milk added to the mix. This is served in cups, to which they also add things like white clams and mussels.
If you’re ever in Lima, there are three places that we highly recommend for ceviche and leche de tigre. Ask for “Carmencita” at the market in the Jesus Maria neighborhood. Otherwise, on Saturdays and Sundays in Surquillo Mercado Numero 1, Acurio himself set up an open air market where they serve superb leche de tigre. Finally, you can try to find Cevicheria Dos Piratas, which has consistently won awards for its ceviche.
Image Credit: The Gourmet Traveller