DC Refined: Chef Carlos Delgado teaches you how to make fresh Peruvian ceviche at home

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From DC Refined by Lani Furbank:

“Preparing raw fish at home is an intimidating proposition for many home chefs. First, there’s the challenge of finding high-quality, fresh fish. Then there’s the fear that, despite your careful selection, the fish could still be tainted in some way, leaving you with nothing to show for your hard work but a case of food poisoning. Sometimes it might seem better to leave dishes like sushi, poke, crudo, carpaccio, and ceviche to the pros.

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China Chilcano is hoping that people will change their tune when it comes to ceviche: raw fish marinated in citrus. The restaurant is launching a class that will teach people how to prepare a classic Peruvian ceviche at home. “Anybody can do it,” says Chef Carlos Delgado, who leads the class.

We had a chance to check out the class last week and here’s what we found out from Delgado, a native of Peru.

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Peru calls dibs on the invention of ceviche

Ceviche is prepared in different ways all across Latin and South America, but Delgado says the Incas were the ceviche OGs. “They say that they found recipes for ceviche in a Peruvian cookbook way back in the 1500s, so there’s no other country in the world that has that.”

“Limes came in the 1530s when the Spaniards took over Lima and the Inca community. They brought limes, they brought onions, they brought celery, and little by little it started evolving,” Delgado says. “There’s a million varieties and variations on how to do it. It’s a matter of the culture, where you’re from, where you’re located.”

Today’s ceviche looks very different than the Incas’ recipe

“Now ceviche can be made in 30 seconds, up to a minute,” Delgado says. “Before it would take three hours or overnight.” China Chilcano serves their ceviche immediately after preparing it, and Delgado says you can do the same thing at home.

Another major difference is the use of a fortified marinade. Instead of just adding citrus juice and seasonings to fish, Peruvian ceviche enlists the help of leche de tigre (which translates to tiger’s milk) to amplify the dish’s flavors. Typically, leche de tigre is what’s left in the bowl after enjoying your ceviche, but many recipes call for whipping up a batch beforehand to kick things up a notch. As an added bonus, it’s said to be a hangover cure.

To make leche de tigre, you simply blend a few of your ceviche ingredients. China Chilcano’s leche de tigre recipe is included below so you can make it at home. Be sure to follow the steps in order (no freestyling it here), or else you’ll end up with an unappetizing shade of green or brown instead of the desired milky white.

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The key ingredients for ceviche

Delgado says every ceviche must have five ingredients: fish, lime juice, onion, pepper, and celery. Beyond that, you can create endless variations by adding other flavors and vegetables.

China Chilcano’s Peruvian ceviche clásico uses the following traditional ingredients:

  1. Snapper, large-dice (but you can use any fish you like)
  2. Fresh lime juice
  3. Aji limo (Peruvian pepper), finely chopped
  4. Red onions, finely julienned
  5. Celery, finely chopped
  6. Cilantro, chopped
  7. Choclo (Peruvian corn – find it in the frozen section in Latin stores), defrosted
  8. Camote (sweet potato), cooked
  9. Cancha (dried, toasted Peruvian corn – find it in Latin stores)

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Preparing ceviche at home

If you’re ready to give it a shot, Delgado has some advice. “The quality of the ingredients matters the most,” he says. That means as fresh as possible.

When looking for fish at the market, there are a few things to check. “If you see a whole fish, make sure the eyes are not sunken in, they’re vibrantly out. The gills are very red, super vibrantly red. If you touch the meat, it shouldn’t make an indent inside it should kind of bounce back,” Delgado says. “It should also not smell like fish. It should smell like fresh ocean water.”

After you bring it home, use it fast. “If you’re doing a raw preparation, I would say do it the day of, max the next day, well held in your fridge under ice so it’s extra cold.””

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Read the rest of the story and get the recipe on DC Refined HERE.