Tuesday, June 28, is National Ceviche Day — a day designated specifically to the worship of lime-marinated seafood.
A traditional South American dish that can be traced back to the Incas, who preserved fish by covering it with a bath of salt and acidic fruit juice, the basic ingredients haven't changed much from its earliest form. Typically made with sea bass or flounder — any firm, white-fleshed fish or shellfish will do — all you need is a fresh cut of raw fish, fresh-squeezed lime juice, and a few spices, herbs, and raw vegetables.
Depending on the culture or region, additional ingredients in ceviche vary widely. In Costa Rica, it's made with thinly sliced onion and served with avocado and plantain chips. In Ecuador, shrimp ceviche is popular, tinged pink from the use of ketchup in the marinade. In Chile, ceviche is flavored with cilantro and often made with Chilean sea bass bathed in grapefruit juice in place of lime juice.
No matter what you order, here are some of our favorite spots to get ceviche in Broward and Palm Beach counties:
8. Best Ceviche Ever
1313 W. Boynton Beach Blvd., Boynton Beach. Call 561-732-3080.
This 2-year-old Peruvian establishment off Boynton Beach Boulevard in Boynton Beach is a quick-stop lunch and dinner spot offering some pretty amazing food. Inside, it looks like your average fast-casual concept: just a few tables and chairs, a pay counter, and not much else. But sit down and dig in and you'll find the ceviche is exceptionally fresh and prepared in the authentic Peruvian manner: served with soft-boiled sweet potato, the Andean choclo corn, and slices of red onion. The Ceviche de Mariscos a Los Tres Ajies is prepared with a mixture of seafood in a rich cream sauce and, like most of the offerings here, is priced affordably. The cup of roasted corn kernels, a traditional Peruvian snack, is complimentary.
7. Ceviche By the Sea
2823 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Oakland Park. Call 954-999-0751, or visit cevichebythesea.com.
The menu here is not your average Peruvian fare. Although some authentic home recipes appear, the focus is on the growing trend of Peruvian fusion, in which creative chefs blend tried-and-true flavors and ingredients in their own unique dishes. This 3-year-old Fort Lauderdale restaurant offers seven variations of the dish available in customizable heat indexes like the clásico, which combines corvina with traditional lime juice, cilantro, red onions, sweet potato, and choclo. It gets its heat from limo peppers, which the chef buys frozen and pickles himself. But it's their unique tuna recipe that steals the show: the Atun Oriental y Mango, an exotic combination of yellowfin tuna tossed with mango, blood orange, scallion, and sesame seeds in an aji panca (Peruvian red pepper sauce) for a sweet-and-spicy, flavorful kick.
6. Victoria's Peruvian Cuisine
111 S. Third Street, Lantana. Call 561-588-9606, or visit victoriascuisines.com.
This longtime Peruvian restaurant offers one of Palm Beach County's best ceviches, a heaping platter served in the country's traditional manner with a slice of tender sweet potato, cuts of boiled yucca, chock corn kernels, sliced raw red onion, and cilantro. The marinade juice — all milky and tinged pink from a combination of raw fish, aji amarillo peppers, and unfiltered lime juice — is the best part, served according to your own personal heat preference. Choose from several varieties, including a mix of seafood like clams, calamari, and mussels or shrimp and plump cuts of firm, white-fleshed fish.
5. La Huaca Peruvian Cuisine
2000 Harrison St., Hollywood. Call 954-239-8722, or visit lahuacaperuviancuisine.com.
In 2014, husband-and-wife team Ynes and Maher Sona opened La Huaca in downtown Hollywood. The name, according to Ynes, can be interpreted as "hidden treasure" — a nod to the shrines found throughout the Incan territory from Ecuador to Chile believed to house spiritual beings. For her, the place is a diamond in the rough, an escape from the often-traditional approach to Peruvian cuisine. To bring the concept to life, Ynes has enlisted the help of executive chef Daniel Huambachano, a Lima native who comes from Miami's Peruvian restaurant, Francesco. His specialties include a number of traditional Peruvian dishes, each given a new touch. This includes several ceviches, some of the best you'll find in Broward County.
4. The Catch Seafood & Sushi
766 Northlake Blvd., Lake Park. Call 561-842-2180, or visit thecatchseafoodsushi.com.
This laid-back, hole-in-the-wall seafood and sushi spot is the perfect place to get ceviche, too. Grab a seat on the covered outdoor patio with water views and order up the tiger's milk (AKA leche de tigre), the leftover juices from the marinated fish and ingredients served in a small shot glass, used as a cure for hangovers across Central and South America. At this Lake Park bistro, it's a great way to celebrate National Ceviche Day — or any day, really. The Americanized version is flavored with coconut milk, red onion, cilantro, and back pepper. Of course, there's an equally good traditional ceviche as well, if that's what you're after.
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3. Carretillera at La Panza Latin Bistro
131 NE Second Ave., Deerfield Beach. Call 754-212-4199.
If you've ever had the chance to savor "leche de tigre" and loved it, you know how frustrating it can be trying to slurp the last of it from your serving bowl. Leaving that tantalizing combination of leftover lime and fish juice mixed with bits of sliced onion and chili pepper uneaten is simply not an option. Luckily, at 8-month-old La Panza Latin Bistro in Deerfield Beach, you don't have to. In addition to traditional ceviche, La Panza has a menu section called Tiger's Milk where each of the ceviches on the menu is available in wide-mouth eight- or 12-ounce Mason jars served with an extra portion of leche de tigre. It's the perfect container for "shooting" the remaining tiger's milk juice. The must-try version is the Carretillera, a 12-ounce Mason jar filled to the brim with the Clasica recipe and topped with a heaping portion of fresh-fried calamari. And, when you're done eating, the glass makes it easy to drink away the last of the milky marinade.
2. Runas Peruvian Cuisine
219 N. 21st Ave., Hollywood. Call 954-534-9146, or visit runasrestaurant.com.
Though there are literally hundreds of variations on ceviche, all need just five ingredients: fish, a lime juice marinade, Peruvian chili peppers, onion, and a dash of salt and herbs. In Hollywood, Runas prepares a number of takes at its ceviche bar, manned by chef-owner Luis Santos, where you can watch him mix and plate each one to order. The signature Runas ceviche is a fresh seafood medley — a white-fleshed Peruvian fish called corvina, firm rings of squid, plump shrimp, and a single oversized green mussel — marinated in an ochre-hued juice made from a blend of Peruvian yellow pepper, cream, and lime juice. Rather than let the fish sit in an acidic bath, Santos gives the fish a quick flambé in an Asian wok, which lends the dish a unique, smoky kick. It's plated with a fat slice of cinnamon-scented sweet potato and crowned with julienne-sliced red onion and cilantro chiffonade.
401 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-656-3663, or visit suviche.com.
Ceviche has long been a source of pride and even national identity in Peru. It even prompted the Peruvian government to recognize ceviche as part of Peru's national heritage and in 2008, when Peru’s Ministry of Production further honored the traditional dish by creating Día Nacional del Ceviche (National Ceviche Day), to be held each year on June 28. To celebrate, SuViche — the Peruvian-Japanese restaurant and pisco bar in Fort Lauderdale — will be offering $18 bottomless small servings of various ceviches at all four of their locations, including Las Olas. The special will be available from 3 p.m. to close and includes SuViche's seven different ceviche variations. Although there are a few to choose from, try the rocoto (pictured here). The red rocoto chili pepper is a staple in Peruvian cuisine, and SuViche has perfected their take on the traditional rocoto sauce garnished with crispy onions, with a twist on the usual preparation that will not disappoint. The restaurant also offers its signature Ahi Amarillo with a special pepper-based sauce, or Chifa, a fusion of sweet and sour enhanced with teriyaki, pickled ginger, chopped avocado, and sliced onion, then topped with fried wonton crisps.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.