Your grandmother told you never to eat any of the street food in Mexico. And always, I mean always, insist on your food being cooked well done! But here’s the struggle, if you really adapt that attitude and skip the street, as many well intentioned gabachos advise, you will miss out on a ton of good food options across a country loaded with gastronomic delights.
Recently I was in Ensenada and if you know anything about this wonderful port city, you know it there is a lot of great seafood there. Unfortunately many are going to miss out on some of the freshest seafood they’ll ever have because it is served al fresco… or outdoors from a stand, or a cart.
Such was the case when I journeyed south of town to a small area known as Porticos. Here, tucked inside a small dirt parking area is a little stand serving up ceviche. Ceviche for the uninitiated is a sort of Latin version of chopped sushi, cured in lemon or lime juice and mixed with onions, chiles and tomatoes. While regionally ceviche can take on many forms, the classic is generally made with fish or shrimp.
Traveling as I do in Mexico, I regularly eat in stands, at carts, and in strangers homes. I’ve eaten in some of the best restaurants in the country and have shared a kitchen cooking alongside some wonderful chefs. Never, in all my years, have I seen as person as thorough as Efren was at about the cleanliness of his, he would call it, Ceviche Restaurant.
I was amazed at how he never stops working, even when there was a lull in the customer flow. His helper, who seems like he has been there for years, knew exactly what Efren needed almost before anything was said.
And their efforts paid dividends.
Simply put, this was some of the best ceviche I’ve ever had in Mexico. Fresh, crisp and without any hint that his seafood was leftover from the previous day. Efren would rather run short, than get caught with too much. That’s the mark of someone interested in quality.
Clearly it shows. If you love seafood, Ensenada is a great place to visit. And if you can get the courage to get off the beaten track, Mariscos Las Glorias will give you a great lunch for a great price.
Next time you are in Ensenada, skip eating downtown with all the tourists. Head south towards the Chapultepec area and when you come to the large Pemex on the right, his stand is on the left just past the tamale stands in the dirt parking lot, right by Jaime’s tire repair.
Mariscos Las Glorias, Ceviche for two, plus sodas… if you eat a lot, $20.00, but well worth it!
Here’s a great recipe from Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill where they’ve served ceviche for over 20 years.
- 1pound “sashimi-quality” skinless meaty ocean fish fillet (halibut, snapper and bass are great choices), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- About 1 1/2cups fresh lime juice
- 1small white onion, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
- Hot green chiles to taste (roughly 2 or 3 serranos or 1 large jalapeño), stemmed and roughly chopped
- 1/4cup green olives, preferably manzanillos
- 1large (about 10-ounces) ripe tomato, cored, seeded (if you wish) and cut into 1/4-inch pieces OR 1/4 cup (lightly packed, about 1 ounce) soft sun dried tomatoes, chopped into 1/8-inch pieces
- 1/4small jicama, peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (optional, but suggested if using sun dried tomatoes)
- 1/4cup (loosely packed) chopped fresh cilantro (thick bottom stems cut off)
- 2tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
- 1teaspoon sugar
- About 16ounces of sturdy tortilla chips or 3- to 4-inch tostadas (preferably chips or tostadas from a local tortillería), for serving
- “Cook” the fish in the lime juice. In a large stainless steel or glass bowl, combine the fish, lime juice and onion. The fish should float freely in the juice; if not, add a little more. Cover and refrigerate until the fish is as “done” as you like: An hour or so for medium-rare, 3 to 4 hours for “cooked” all the way through. Tip off the lime juice—sad to say that it’s fishy tasting at this point and can’t be easily used for any other preparation.
- Flavor the ceviche. In a mini food processor, process the green chile and olives until finely chopped (or finely chopped by hand). Add to the fish along with the tomato, optional jícama, cilantro and olive oil. Stir well, then season with salt (usually about a scant teaspoon) and sugar. Refrigerate until ready to serve—preferably no longer than an hour or two.
Working Ahead: The fish can be marinated in lime and completely drained (even if you’re going to add back some of the juice) early in the day you’re going to serve; cover tightly and refrigerate. All the vegetables and the cilantro can be prepped, mixed, covered and refrigerated early in the day, too. Mix and season the ceviche within two hours of serving; keep it refrigerated until the last moment.