The Japanese Ceviche and Its South American Origins

Ceviche and The Japanese Influence

That spicy, raw fish salad that has salt, garlic, chopped onions, and hot Peruvian peppers like aji or amarillo, mixed and marinated in lime is called ceviche. The fish is chemically cooked by the citric acids making it tender, hence it is no longer raw fish. You might think that ceviche is native to Mexico because the dish has been part of traditional Mexican cuisine for centuries. No, it is not Mexican in origin.

Birthplace of Ceviche

Peru is the birthplace of ceviche, dating back to when Spaniards first imported citrus to the new world. It was said that the first versions were brought to Peru by Moorish women from Granada in Spanish colonial times.

Today’s ceviche is the national dish of Peru. It has its own national holiday. Many restaurants in the country are solely dedicated to ceviche, called cevicherias, especially in Lima where there are 20,000. While there are generally just 5 ingredients in ceviche – fish, salt, onion lime and chili – there are many variations. In Peru there’s ceviche with a touch of milk, passion fruit, orange juice, celery, among others. It is garnished with lettuce leaves, corn kernels and sweet potato.

Did you know that the traditional ceviche used to be marinated for 12 hours? Then the Japanese came. The Nikkeis people, of Japanese ancestry, first emigrated to South America in 1899 to work in the cotton and sugarcane fields. Japanese ingredients and way of cooking were not at first understood by Peruvians, but slowly soy sauce and ginger became part of Peruvian cuisine. Equal lovers of fish, the Japanese eventually began opening cevicherias. The merging of Peruvian and Japanese techniques became known as the Nikkei cuisine. The Japanese influence enabled a shorter marinating time for the famous ceviche.

Then, in the 1970s, a classically trained Japanese sushi chef, Nobu Matsuhisa, came to Lima, age 24, to open a sushi restaurant. Limited by the range of ingredients available, he adapted and improvised using Peruvian ingredients. This is now known as the Nobu style, eventually turning into a global restaurant empire. Meanwhile, the traditional ceviche has spread around the world, adapting to the country and culture where you find it.

Peruvian and Japanese: Together in Lynnwood

You can always have ceviche as a great alternative to sushi – especially if you are not a fan of raw fish. Experience our Japanese ceviche at Wild Wasabi in Lynnwood and bring to mind the Japanese influence on Peru’s national dish.