J.R. Tolkien

"Not all those who wander are lost." - J.R. Tolkien

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Ceviche - A Culinary Love Story

The summer of 2007 was full of heartache and uncertainty but it was also the summer that I discovered a new culinary love, ceviche (also spelled seviche, cebiche).  Like all first loves, I still remember the precise moment when I first took a bite of this tangy and refreshing seafood dish.

I was in a month long summer program in Panama (the country), on the way to spend a day at the beach with my host friends.  We stopped by the local super market to pick up some essentials: utensils, drinks, and snacks.  All my Panamanian friends agreed that ceviche had to be on that list.  I never heard of this dish before and was immediately intrigue.  We proceeded to the fridge and grab a clear container with small white fish chunks marinade in lime sauce, mixed with chopped cilantro and sweet white onions.

Panamanian friends
Not too long later, we were sitting at a local beach, crackers in hand scooping out chunks of fish.  First bite and I was in love.  The raw corvina (sea bass) having cooked in lime juice for hours became an opaque white.  The natural sweetness of the fish and onions, the lightly salted tanginess of the lime juice, the fragrance of the cilantro all came together in harmony, creating a simple yet delicious seafood dish.

My love affair with ceviche started that day, continued on the rest of that summer and all the summers after.  As you can see below, I ate A LOT of ceviche.

There are a lot of ceviche varieties - Peruvian ceviche in Panama. 
Peruvian ceviche in Puerto Rico
Mixed ceviche in Mexico. Photo: Vy. 
Conch ceviche/salad in Nassau. Photo: Uyen
I'm a long way from the beach and Panama, but because of my love for this dish, my eyes automatically scan the menu every time I'm in a South American restaurant.  Luckily, there are plenty of places in Louisville to look for ceviche.  On the upscale side: Seviche on Bardstown Road offers 4 types of ceviche ($15 - $19), Mayan Cafe has scallop ceviche ($12), Mojitos menu includes shrimp ceviche ($8), Guaca Mole's sampler consists of three types ($15), and Havana Rumba has a mixed seafood ceviche del dia ($8.50).  And yup, I've tried them all, except for the scallop.  While good, they are on the small and expensive side.  My favorite of these is the sampler from Guaca Mole.

Ceviche Trio from Guaca Mole
My ceviche taste runs on the casual and cheap so I've been on a mission to find ceviche that are friendlier to my budget and closer to my beach side experience.  Below are a few of my finds last month and other places I plan to try in the future.  Have a favorite ceviche place? Let me know, you know I'll be there!

Mixto ceviche from el Mocajete
El Mocajete
8116 Preston Hwy
Louisville, KY 40219
(502) 742-3485
The mixed ceviche here is huge and costs around $12, a bargain for what you get.  They used catfish instead, which did not work very well.  I would recommend this restaurant for the other delicious seafood items on the menu.  The camarones a la diabla was spicy and full of flavors.

Camaron tostada from La Riviera Maya
La Riviera Maya
8104 National Tpke, Ste 102
Louisville, KY 40214
(502) 361-3566
This ceviche is the perfect combination of freshness and crunch.  We ordered an extra portion after finishing the first.  It's $3.99/each. Other items on the menu are delicious, we tore up our fried fish!

3 varieties to choose from.  Photo: Antojitos Byanca Cravings
Antojitos Byanca Cravings
6004 Pleasant Colony Ct
Crestwood, KY 40014
(859) 447-5196
This little food stand in Crestwood offers shrimp ceviche, shrimp cocktail and beef ceviche.  It was so good I guiltily drank the lime juice after the shrimp were all gone.  I'm already planning to come back to try their large selection of tropical drinks, shakes, ice cream and tacos.

Shrimp ceviche.  Photo source.
Las Gorditas
4756 Bardstown Rd
Louisville, KY 40218
(502) 492-2457
This taco truck has reasonably priced food items and popular with the crowd.  The crab ceviche has great flavor but since it's imitation, its taste didn't wow.  Get the shrimp.

Tilapia ceviche
Mi Preferida Restaurante
4680 Bardstown Rd
Louisville, KY 40218
You'll have to walk through this super market to get to the restaurant in the back (in the same shopping center as Las Gorditas).  The tacos are cheap at $2/each and the burritos are big.  I really like the tilapia ceviche tostada, fragrance and delicious. For added spice, use the hot sauce on the table.

Other places that offer authentic and cheap ceviche:

Los Caballos
3201 Fern Valley Rd, Ste 113
Louisville, KY 40213
(502) 709-4363

La Rosita
5059 Preston Hwy
Louisville, KY 40213
(502) 618-2883

La Loma Restaurant
560 Eastern Blvd
Clarksville, IN 47129
(812) 283-3775