I met up with Jamie yesterday at the 10 de agosto market to pick up supplies for making ceviche. One of the traditional dishes from the coast of Ecuador, it's become a meal that I really enjoy eating, but don't get much of because I live in the mountains. Yet for a friends birthday, a few of us were gathering at Jamie's house to cook the food and hang out.
Outside the market it was hot and Jamie and I went upstairs for some delicious juice concoction with pineapple and strawberry for 50 cents. Her friend, Fernanda, whose birthday we were celebrating, was the one who knew how to cook the ceviche, and she was going to show us how. We strolled through the market, but let Fernanda do the buying so she would get the best prices. Walking through the fish section, the older, female vendors were playing with Jamie and I. First they danced for us and got us to dance, and then they asked if we were married. I said no and they asked if we were dating. Again I said no, and they asked me if I liked boys. When I said no they laughed and asked Jamie why she didn't want me, since I was beautiful with cat eyes.
They quoted us a price on shrimp, and when we asked Fernanda how much it cost her, she paid two dollars less than we would have. The supplies we needed were shrimp, peppers, onions, cilantro, and plantain for the patacones that we would dip into the ceviche. Ceviche is a cold soup dish, as served in Ecuador. In Peru it's a different story altogether. I'm just going to focus on what I'm familiar with, the Ecuadorian version. Even though it's a coastal dish, Fernanda's father is from Guayaquil, so she knew the recipe.
Back at Jamie's house, we started to prepare the food. The girls started preparing the shrimp while I cut up the onions, and though Fernanda wanted them cut in a certain way, it took me a couple of onions to get it right. Eventually the onions were too much for my eyes and Fernanda finished it up, but by then the shrimps were ready and the shells were being mixed in a pot of hot water that would become the broth. This is used to add flavor, and it smelled so good I could have eaten just the shells.
After the onion fiasco I moved on to cutting up the peppers. We used green peppers, and after cutting them open and removing the seeds, I cut them into long strips and then into tiny parts. We only needed about 1 and a half peppers before we were almost done with preparation. By this time a bunch of other people had shown up and the kitchen was packed. The ceviche was almost finished, so some people moved on to cook the patacones. For this fried food, you cut up pieces of plantain and fry both sides. Once they are semi fried, you remove them from the pan and mash them flat. After, you put them back in the pan and fry them some more until they are finished.
At the same time other people were preparing homemade canelazo, a traditional drink here that I've said tastes like acid reflux. For this drink, naranjilla was boiled in with aguardiente, or sugar cane alcohol. I've looked for a translation of naranjilla and can't find one, and I have to imagine that this fruit doesn't exist back home.
Once the patacones were ready to go we put a table in the yard and had a little picnic as the sun started to go down. With the ceviche in a large bowl, we all put an equal amount into smaller bowls and dipped the patacones into the broth as we ate up the rest of the ingredients. With a lime juice that adds to the flavor, the ceviche had all of the fixings to make a hungry man feel satiated. The shrimp was just right and the peppers and onions, which I normally don't go after, created a blend in the broth that caused a tart sensation once they reached the mouth, but ultimately left you wanting more. In other words, it was a great meal.
Just as we finished it got dark and drizzles came down, so we went back inside for some chocolate flavored Zhumir, a sugar cane alcohol, and some of the canelazo before heading out. A relatively big process for a meal, ceviche is nonetheless a dish that I can add to my favorites, and with any luck we'll be cooking it again some time soon.