Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Chilling Out With Ceviche

We had a warming trend this past weekend in the Bay Area, so that inspired me to make something light and cool for lunch. Since I was also visiting the Tokyo Fish Market in Berkeley, I decided to make ceviche for the first time at home. (It’s a dish I like to order at restaurants but never make at home because you have to make sure you get super fresh fish.)

Ceviche is a raw fish dish popular in Latin America, often made by fishermen on their boats by simply cutting up the fresh fish and “cooking” it with citrus juice, usually limes. Today it’s made with a variety of seafood, including scallops and shrimp. I fell in love with ceviche after eating it at Limon, my favorite Peruvian restaurant in San Francisco.

Limon has a particular ceviche dish that uses a chili-infused cream, which I thought was so seductively rich. So I decided to make something similar with my fresh fish.

At the Tokyo Fish Market, next to the sashimi-grade yellowfin tuna and hamachi, was this small sliver of Kona Kampachi from the Big Island of Hawaii. I’ve eaten Kona Kampachi at numerous restaurants, and I’ve mentioned that it’s now becoming the ahi tuna of ’08. Everyone’s serving this sustainable fish from Hawaii, and oftentimes raw.

It’s consider sustainable because the producers of the fish, a company called Kona Blue, which started in 2001, believes that farming this fatty Hawaiian yellowtail will reduce the desire for other fish species that are being depleted from over-fishing. Kona Blue also practices good farming methods, including raising the fish 200 feet deep in the ocean off the Kona Coast so that the farming doesn’t disturb the rest of the ocean dynamics. (You can learn more about Kona Blue’s Kona Kampachi on its Web site.)

I started looking for Kona Kampachi at my local grocery stores after trying it for the first time at a San Francisco restaurant. It’s fatty just like salmon, but without the controversy over “color-added.” Even though it’s served at almost all the hip restaurants in town, I couldn’t find it at any of the markets I visited (including Whole Foods). When I would ask for it, everyone kept looking at me like I didn’t know what I was looking for and kept asking me if I meant “hamachi”? Um, no.

So it was like finding a treasure after a long hunt when I saw it sold at the Tokyo Fish Market. (I later found out that it’s also sometimes available at Bristol Farms.) It was selling for $19.95 a pound, so not your everyday fish. But it’s such a luxurious fish to have now and then. It was so fatty that when I was making the ceviche, I felt like the fish was coated with olive oil. So you can just imagine what it was like when I added a touch of cream! Enjoy!

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