The charm of Peru’s national dish: ceviche

SANJAY DWIVEDI is head chef at Coya, the highly-rated Peruvian restaurant in Piccadilly. He explains to Melissa York the allure of Peru’s most famous dish, ceviche, which is made by marinading raw fish in citrus juices:

“Peruvians eat ceviche all the time. For any meal, any time of the day, at any kind of restaurant. The story goes that a mother in Peru would go out and get the fish, chop it up and leave it in a bowl of oranges with a cloth over it to soak up the juice. She would then tell her children that if they lifted the cloth, they would go blind. It would keep the children from picking at the fish and it would allow it enough time to marinade.

“It’s made with great cuts of fish, whatever type you have lying around – it varies hugely. Fruit is also a common ingredient, along with whatever vegetables are in season. We have wonderfully ripe tomatoes in our sea bass ceviche at the moment. The balance of the dish is so delicate that even the pressure with which you squeeze the lime makes the difference between it being a sweet ceviche or a sharp one. It’s great for hangovers because it’s light but full of protein, and has fruit to hydrate you. And if you put a bit of cream in the sauce, it settles the stomach.

“It’s the best parts of many cuisines from around the world. It takes its raw element from Japan, a bit of spicing from China, but with the laid-back, sharing aspect of the Mediterranean. There’s also a lot of Africa and some Italy in there, too.”

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