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Cocona Ceviche

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Ceviche in its bath of leche de tigre (tiger’s milk) and garnish of starch items, onion, plantain, sweet potato, chiles and more.

During the shooting of the public television show “Simply Ming” earlier this week, chef Elizabeth Johnson, Latin cuisines specialist at the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio, demonstrated making this Peruvian-style ceviche. Her host and celebrity chef of the show, Ming Tsai, gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Note that in the technique, steps are taken to keep bitterness out of the mix of flavors. Slicing the limes top to bottom, discarding the pithy, seedy center before squeezing, is one way. And, the chef recommends not using a hand-held lemon squeezer, as the bitter oils stay on the tool.

The recipe calls for discarding the center part of the red onion, or the heart. That is because this part grew first, and is the oldest and most bitter-tasting.

Cocona Ceviche


1/2 pound grouper, bonito
Kombu sheets, as needed, (optional)
4 teaspoons salt
1 Ají limo, thinly sliced with seeds/veins OR Substitute habanero, without seeds, veins)
1/4 cup red onion, heart removed, julienne,  rinsed in ice cold water
Ice bath and kosher salt, for curing fish

Leche de Tigre (Yields 1 cup)

20 Mexican key limes, or Mexican limes
1 pinch Bonita flakes (find in Japanese market, or section of supermarket)
2 Ají limo, thinly sliced with seeds/veins OR substitute habanero, without seeds, veins
1 celery stalk, peeled, thinly sliced
Ginger, peeled, grated to make 1 teaspoon pulp
2 garlic cloves, mashed with chef’s knife
1/4 cup cocona pulp (Amazonian tree tomato) OR substitute with other acidic fruit
1/4 cup red onion, heart removed, julienne, rinsed or soaked in ice cold water


1/4 cup plantains, ripe, peeled, 1/2-inch bias slice
1/4 cup sweet potatoes, roasted, peeled, sliced
1 cilantro sprig, roughly chopped

For the garnish: preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake the sweet potato, skin on for 35 minutes. Slice the plantains and reserve.

For the leche de tigre:  Cut the limes in half lengthwise, discarding the middle section and squeeze into a bowl. If you choose to use a lime squeezer, wipe the squeezer down with a dry towel after each use to avoid the build up of bitter oils from the limes. Add the remaining ingredients to the lime juice and reserve on ice. Season with salt to taste.

For the ceviche: Square off the fish and remove any bones or discolored pieces of flesh, adding these pieces to your leche de tigre mixture. Cut the fish into ½ inch bias cubes. Transfer the cut fish to a bowl set over an ice bath. Generously salt the fish, approximately 4-5 pinches of kosher salt. Mix the salted fish with a spoon and watch as the proteins in the fish produce a glossy sheen around the fish with the additional of the salt. Add the ají limo and red onion and continue tossing the fish for 1 minute.

Pour the leche de tigre through a strainer over the fish and press the strained ingredients. Transfer the ingredients to a bowl, add the garnish and serve immediately.

Makes 4 portions

From Elizabeth Johnson, chef-instructor, Latin Cuisines Specialist, at Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio

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