"Ceviche, Ceviche, Ceviche, Cevicheeeaaaa," blasts from the mouth of a vendor and is quickly echoed by the calls of her nearby competitors. If followed closely, these sounds will lead you to the most delightful treat ever to cost CP$1,000(US$2.09).
The ceviche, seen here with noodles, potato, corn and sauces (photo by Neil Morrison)
When the day is new and the fish barely smells, of, well, fish, run down to the covered bridge on the river between Puente La Paz and Puente Recoleta, and grab yourself a plate of street-cart ceviche. The proximity of La Vega's vast seafood market to these street-carts assures that the near raw fish you are about to consume will be not only contaminant-free, but darn tasty.
The competition in this particular area yields fresh and high quality products served up quickly to ensure repeat offenders. One is spoiled for choice but never fear, they all have their goods on display and all offer astonishingly similar recipes. But obviously, the cart with the biggest line is the cart for you. Wait your turn behind savvy market goers returning with overstuffed bags and stopping on the bridge to eat and regain stamina before heading home with their heavy loads. There aren't many benches to plop down on but a generous lean back on the side of the bridge with a view of the mountains in the distance really isn't too bad at all.
The competition all lined up (photo by Neil Morrison)
Much like other mainstays of South American Cuisine, many countries insist ownership of ceviche while the exact place of origin remains unknown. Mexico, Equador, Peru and Chile all have their own special variations on the theme of what are essentially citrus-marinated fish bits in a custom blend of spices alongside a complimenting side dish.
Santiago itself is home to many variations. Though the seafood is usually halibut, sometimes peppered with octopus, the accompaniment changes from market to market and vendor to vendor. The dish consists of the fish, rice or spaghetti with slices of boiled potato and sauces (especially those of the garlic mayo variety) drizzled on top.
This variety is far superior because it involves more tasty components. Along with the basics, one will get a modest plastic spoonful of fried calamari atop your mound of noodles as well as a dozen or so cancha (roasted corn kernels). Once assembled, on this simple Styrofoam dish sits the perfect melding of flavours and textures; the fresh acid of the fish, the cayenne spice of the spaghetti and the crunch of cancha play to every corner of your palette.
And don’t worry, the fresh cilantro and hint of mint override the garlic breath allowing you to go about your day causing minimal offense to others.