One of the hardest ingredients to find these days is good fresh fish, especially fresh fish that is sustainably caught. Even some of the best speciality grocery stores in San Francisco carry fish that just looks and tastes lackluster — and it’s hard to blame them, given that most of the fish we eat spends days in transit after being caught in some far-off destination. Until recently, the best resource I found was ilovebluesea.com, an amazing online fish reseller that will pack your fish on ice and send it anywhere in the US for overnight delivery the day you order it. But I wanted to know where they sourced their fish, and it was an amazing surprise when I found that, according to the FAQ on their website, they get their fish from Royal Hawaiian Seafood, a San Francisco seafood distributor that also sells to many of the fish markets and restaurants in the Bay Area.
Three things about Royal Hawaiian seafood make it my new favourite discovery: 1) they sell to the public, out of the same warehouse that ships the ilovebluesea packages; 2) they are 100% committed to sustainably-sourced, ecologically responsible fishing practices; and 3) most remarkably, their location is 100 yards from my apartment in SF. Needless to say, I’m there almost every week now. If you live in San Francisco, this should literally be the only place you go for fresh seafood (get there before their trucks go out at 11am on any weekday for the best selection). It’s not cheap, but it is SO worth it. Make sure to ask if you can tour the warehouse — you will be blown away by the scale of their operation and the massive selection of fish, oysters and shellfish from all over the world.
Anyway, now that I’ve given away my best secret, here is a recipe for a classic Peruvian-style ceviche that I served as the first course to a birthday feast we cooked up for my friend Zoe’s birthday (additional courses posted above). Royal Hawaiian had some super-fresh wild caught Alaskan True Cod, which is what I used, but you can use any fresh fish you find for this recipe, or even shrimp or scallops.
1-3 pounds of fresh fish of your choice (hearty white fish is best, e.g. cod, halibut, chilean sea bass, red snapper, tilapia)
2-3 bell peppers (a combination of red, orange, yellow and green)
3-4 jalapenos (or other hot peppers, such as a habanero)
1 bunch cilantro
1. Cook the Fish
Rinse your fish in cold running water, pat dry, and dice finely (1cm cubes) with your sharpest knife. Combine with juice of 10 limes and a diced jalapeno — the fish should be entirely covered in lime juice. Let sit for at least 3-4 hours, until fish is opaque. During this time, the acidity of the lime juice will actually alter the protein structure of the fish in a similar way to cooking it with heat (although note that lime juice doesn’t necessarily kill all bacteria, which is why you should only use the freshest fish for ceviche).
One the fish appears cooked, rinse the fish in a strainer. Separating the fish from the initial batch of lime juice is the key to this ceviche — many recipes skip this step, but you will find that it makes a brighter, fresher tasting ceviche.
2. Finish the Ceviche
Dice the tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapenos, cilantro and shallots. Combine with the fish and juice of the remaining 10 limes.
Add salt and black pepper to taste.
Serve in bowls with tortilla chips and hot sauce. This can be presented either family style as an appetizer, or in individual bowls as a light main course.
Traditional garnishes include cancha (toasted chulpe corn), corn nuts or popcorn, any of which provides a salty crunchiness that combines perfectly with the buttery fish.