Baja-Style Shrimp Ceviche
By Heidi Allison
Easy to prepare, low in calories and best served icy-cold, shrimp ceviche is a SoCal go-to for hot weather entertaining. Thought to have originated in the coastal regions of Ecuador or Peru, citrus-marinated shrimp ceviche is a simple dish consisting of raw shrimp marinated (cooked) in freshly-squeezed lime, lemon, orange or grapefruit juice with onion, tomato and salt. Adopted as a signature summer dish in Mexico, restaurants and bars serve regional variations that use freshly-squeezed lime, lemon, orange or grapefruit juice (used as the “cooking” acid), diced cucumbers, chopped red onion, diced celery, sliced avocado, Clamato juice, ketchup, hot sauce, minced cilantro and neon-orange flying fish roe.
In any ceviche, it is essential to use the freshest raw shrimp you can source. While many recipes call for this crustacean’s flesh to be the marinated in Mexican lime (aka Key lime) juice until it turns opaque, in Baja, the acid of choice that “cooks” the shrimp is fresh lime juice tempered with a bit of lemon or orange juice, which act to round out any sharp or bitter tastes in the finished dish. The citric acid in the lime juice breaks down the shrimps’s proteins and turns the flesh opaque pink and destroys bacteria. A teaspoon of sugar and ketchup are also used to balance the bracing citrus lime taste. Serrano chilies, diced red onion, chopped cucumbers, minced celery, sliced avocado and flying fish roe are just of few of the regional flavor variations.. What is left out— garlic. That aromatic overpowers the shrimp’s delicate flavor.
While this an easy dish to prepare, there are culinary caveats: make sure the shrimp is completely covered in citrus juice so the flesh can properly marinate or “cook” in the acid. Marinate the shrimp for at least 3 hours. However, do not exceed 8 hours or the shrimp will turn tough. The veggie add-ins are best cut into a ¼ inch dice.
Add the chopped vegetables and cilantro to the “cooked” shrimp and citrus juice, about 20 minutes before serving. Resist the temptation to add the veggies to initial raw shrimp curing cycle— the veggies will turn will turn mushy from being in the acid for too long. Garnish with thinly sliced avocado and flying fish roe right before serving.
Ingredients for shrimp ceviche:
1½ lbs. medium shrimp; peeled, deveined, cut into 1/3-inch pieces
1½ cup freshly-squeezed organic lime juice, about 16 limes
¼ cup freshly-squeezed organic lemon juice, about 1 lemon
Ceviche Veggies and Seasonings:
½ medium red onion, diced
2 serrano chiles; seeded, minced
1 medium hot house cucumber, diced
2 roma tomatoes, diced
½ cup chopped organic celery (include leaves), about 3 stalks
½ bunch cilantro, minced
1 tbs. Ketchup
1 tsp. white sugar
1 tsp. flake sea salt
1 Haas avocado
2 heaping tablespoons wild flying fish roe
Fried corn tortillas
4-6 organic corn tortillas
1 cup avocado or olive oil
4 fresh limes, 2 wedges per serving
1 Tbs. Tapatio Mexican hot sauce per serving
I recommend using Tapatio or Cholua hot sauces, which have thick consistencies and more authentic flavor profiles in the finished dish. If using a thinner vinegary hot sauce , such as Tabasco, which is spicier, start with a half and adjust to your taste after mixing into ceviche.
Place shrimp and citrus juices into a glass bowl and fold gently to coat. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, and up to 8 hours.
Add chopped veggies to marinated shrimp and stir gently; then cover with plastic wrap and place back in refrigerator for an additional 15-20 minutes.
While ceviche is curing, add oil to a medium skillet and heat on medium-heat unit hot. Add tortillas and fry until crisp on both sides and golden brown in color. Drain on brown paper supermarket bags.
Drain ceviche, reserving 1/2 cup of ceviche liquid. Add ketchup, sugar, salt and Tapatio hot sauce to reserved ceviche lime juice, and pour over ceviche. Gently fold to coat. Top with cilantro and toss.
Cut avocado in half and remove pit, then cut into thin slices. Using a slotted spoon, add ceviche to individual serving bowls, along with collected juices, and top with sliced avocado and fish roe.
Serve immediately with fried tortillas, lime wedges and hot sauce.