japanese tuna ceviche
so let’s say that a person on a raw food binge wanted to eat meat/fish. not a chance, right? yeah, well, not quite.
ceviche is, in its most basic form, just acid and bits of raw fish. in all honesty, its preparation is really not that much more complex than it sounds. the complexity of ceviche lies in the timing, intensity of chemical reactions, and balance of flavors. while originally (supposedly) a central/south american dish, ceviche can theoretically be spiced however the chef pleases.
acid is the key to making the fish safe to eat. lemon juice, lime juice, grapefruit juice, and vinegar are all highly acidic, which means that they have the ability to denature proteins. when beef and pork are denatured by acids, they tend to soften up and become more susceptible to the absorption of flavors. when fish becomes denatured, it actually changes color and texture, much like as if it were grilled or cooked in a frying pan.
are there dangers to eating raw fish?
you bet your butt there are. a simple acid marinade doesn’t sterilize your meat like heat will. lemon and lime juice won’t kill parasites or resistant bacteria. so why risk it? well, if your fish is really super fresh and you trust the source, there isn’t much to be scared of. and as luck would have it, i happen to live in a country where seafood can’t get too much fresher without jumping off the rack, flopping about on the floor, and gasping for air.
here’s to you, japan.
- a block of super fresh sashimi-grade maguro (tuna)
- three cloves of garlic
- fresh ginger
- soy sauce
- black pepper
- sesame oil
- acid (lemon, lime, or grapefruit juice)
- half a white onion
- chinese hot pepper
- i cannot begin to stress this enough. the freshness of the fish is key. japan is special because in most grocery stores, they have what are called saku cuts of fish. saku are blocks of fish that are ready to be sashimied. all you need is a really super sharp knife and you are good to go. they contain no bones and generally come in all kinds of tasty varieties. while the real purpose of these cuts is to allow people to make tasty sashimi at home (instead of buying the premade packs that have subpar value), they are ideally suited for ceviche. if you don’t live in japan, ask your local fishmonger about the quality and age of the fish. if you aren’t confident, don’t go for it. it is just that simple. remember, safety first.
- slice your fish into bite-sized cubes. make sure to use a super sharp knife, and try to slice all the way through the fish with a single motion. sawing will produce jagged and uneven cuts of fish, which will ruin your presentation and texture. once cubed, put the fish into a plastic bag.
- slice the onion super thin. mince the garlic and ginger as fine as you can get them, and set a tiny pinch of both aside as garnish. add all three to the bag with the tuna.
- season. be very careful with the chinese hot pepper and sesame oil. too much will completely eclipse the flavor of the dish. ceviche is all about balancing flavors and bringing out the texture of the fish. it will be sour because of the lemon juice, and you want to keep it that way. too spicy or too nutty, and the aftertaste will be weird and unnatural.
- add the acid. there should be enough lemon juice to cover the fish once the bag is sealed. in my experience, for a moderately sized chunk of fish, this will come to about one and half lemons worth of juice. if you don’t want to worry about seeds, it is 100% okay to go with lemon juice from a bottle.
- seal the bag, and put it in the fridge for about three hours, giving it a shake now and again. oil will significantly slow the denaturing effect of the acid, so you may want to consider adding it in after as a flavoring if you are in a hurry to eat. without oil, it should only take about an hour or so.
- drain off half of the lemon juice once finished, and serve on a bed of greens or with bread. it looks and tastes gourmet, and the fact you made cooked fish without cooking will impress even the most stalwart of cooking curmudgeons.
makes an appetizer sized serving for 4 people.