Have you ever tried ceviche? If you love fish and seafood, this Latin American dish is a must for you. Popular along the coast of Central and South America, this dish is basically fresh raw fish, marinated in spices and cooked in lime juice. Yes, I did say raw fish cooked in lime juice. Before you raise an eyebrow and dismiss the idea of ever trying it, let me explain you a bit about the chemistry of cooking without fire.
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When we cook any proteic food, a process called “protein denaturation” occurs, changing the structure of the original protein molecule. This process changes food texture and firmness (as happens with eggs, for example), while making digestion easier. However, heat is not the only denaturant available. Acids, alcohols, organic solvents and other chemicals have the ability to modify protein structure. Since lime juice is highly acidic, it's able to denaturize fish proteins, thus “cooking” the raw fish. The low pH of lime juice also helps control bacteria that may be present.
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The most important part, however, is that the fish used to make ceviche must be extremely fresh. What I mean about extremely fresh is that the fish can't be more than a day old. That's the reason why ceviche is eaten by the beach, where a supply of fresh fish is available. If you aren't able to find fresh fish, there are other options, like cooked shrimp, cooked chicken or vegetarian ceviche.
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The health benefits of eating seafood are widely known, since it's an excellent source of protein, with lots of minerals and vitamins and low fat content. Ceviche offers a healthy alternative and it's a gastronomic experience that will surprise you. If you want to try the best ceviches, go to Peruvian, Ecuadorian or Mexican restaurants and enjoy this wonderful meal.