CEVICHE… IS A MONICA AND CHANDLER.
My relationship with foods can be summarized into two types of romance: Ross and Rachel, or Monica and Chandler.
Either it has been a life-long marathon of unshakable attractions, torments, break-ups and make-ups, which I’ll admit including a vast array of things going from pearl bubble teas to cans of SPAM. Or, I spend my whole life staring at it without much urge or lust, but one day, out of no where, it’s like coal on fire.
I was never a fanatic for ceviche, presumably, chalky-pale chunks of seafoods swimming in a cloudy sour pool. I mean, I’d eat it if it was right in front of me when I’m marinating in a sweltering hot summer day while my butt-cheeks are unnaturally sticking together and the next frappuccino is 1/2-block-away-too-far. It promises not to give me any culinarily transmitted diseases, and I promise not to call its number unless necessary, but the casual hook-up pretty much stops there. It just never really gave me the butterflies is what I’m saying. Then 18 months ago, I went to Lisbon where I stepped into a restaurant called A Cevicheria that pulled a string in my heart, where I started to look at their playful yet genuine takes on this dish with a whole new set of eyes. Like noticing a small dimple that has always been there, it’s still ceviche, but all of a sudden, kind of cute. Reasonably I should have dragged it home immediately, pick a church and make babies, but, a good romance is never without suspense.
It took destiny another 18 months to make the move. This time, it ran into me. It was a mid-summer night when I was laying in bed under the brisk wind of air-conditioning, holding an imaginary cigarette for dramatic effect, and it called out my name, a shrimp ceviche recipe by Lauren Egdal from Comparti Catering. Evidently, that recipe isn’t the one you see me engaged to at this very moment, but it’s very much inspired by. The idea of using coconut milk to form the base of the ceviche, giving it body, deriving it away from being just “cloudy sour pool”, elevating it even, into something tangy and delicious that one can mop up with a piece of bread, is quite frankly going to be our wedding vows. The cold, creamy and citrusy red curry sauce gives just enough savoriness and aroma to bite-size pieces of semi-cured salmon, which is sufficiently attractive in itself. But you’ll learn, as I did, that the true sexiness of a ceviche lies in its popping elements of surprises. In this case, the sauce is perfumed with lime leaves, Thai basils and tarragons, and lightened up by soft dragonfruits and cherry tomatoes. Tangy, salty, sweet, creamy and fragrant.
And did I mention it takes less than 30 minutes? Now who’s blushing?
- 9.2 oz (260 grams) sashimi-grade skinless/boneless salmon
- Juice from 5~6 small Asian limes
- Juice from 2 lemons
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 cup (225 grams) coconut milk
- 2 tbsp (39 grams) Thai red curry paste
- 1/2 tsp light brown sugar
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- 6 kaffir lime leaves
- 14 cherry tomatoes
- 1 small dragon fruit, see note
- 1 small handful Thai basil leaves
- 3 Asian shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 baby radish, thinly sliced
- Pickled red chilis (or jalapeno) to garnish
- Tarragon to garnish
- Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
- Bread to serve
- Cut the salmon into 3/4" (2 cm) cubes, and set inside a small bowl, along with lime juice, lemon juice and fish sauce. If the liquid isn't enough to submerge the salmon, add more lime juice until it does. Cover with plastic-wrap and chill inside the fridge for 20 full minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together coconut milk, red curry paste, light brown sugar and ground black pepper. Remove the central stems from 2 kaffir lime leaves, and grind the soft leafy part inside a stone-mortar until finely ground. Roughly tear up the remaining 4 lime leave, then add both inside the bowl. Cut cherry tomatoes in half, set inside the bowl. Peel and cut the dragon fruit into 1/2" (1.5 cm) cubes, set inside the bowl. Cut Thai basil leaves into very thin strips, set inside the bowl. Add 2 thinly sliced shallots into the bowl (leave the remaining shallots for garnish), then mix everything together. You should finish this RIGHT BEFORE the salmon is ready.
- Once the salmons finish marinating, transfer them with a slotted spoon into the bowl with the curry-mixture, along with 2 tbsp of the marinating lime juice. Cover with plastic-wrap and chill in THE FREEZER for another 5 min. Divide into 2 plates, and garnish generously with torn tarragon leaves, thinly sliced shallots, thinly sliced baby radish and diced pickled chilis, and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. A few cracks of black pepper and a good piece of bread to mop up the liquid, you're good to go.
If you can't find dragon fruit, you can use peeled summer peaches, nectarines, or any other mildly sweet and soft fruits. Or if you like things tart, even raspberries.